It’s funny what twists and turns we are presented in life.
Excuse me. Funny is probably not the right word, not under the circumstances.
Unsuspecting is a better word maybe.
As an example, all this time I thought it would be my brother, Mike, writing about my passing on to that Big Hog Pen in The Sky. That’s how I figured it.
After all, I’m eight years older. Surely I’d be heading homeward bound first.
But it didn’t happen that way. Mike, without so much as a painful whimper, died unexpectedly last week, leaving me the tough chore of writing about him.
As for the older me, I’ll take all the time the Big Editor In The Sky will allow. I’m thankful for every day, every minute, every second.
My little brother, who was actually bigger than me, leaves a wonderful, caring wife, Judy, his daughter, Ashley Whitaker, her husband, Richard, and the couple’s two daughters, Carleigh and Lauren, who Mike loved with a passion. And they returned the favor.
It grieves me to see them grieve. But I know how they feel, and it ain’t much fun.
Mike and I were close, understand. How close?
Well, we came within EIGHT hours of sharing the same birth date. I’m a Sept. 3 baby and he came into the world eight years and eight hours later on Sept. 4, just in time for football season.
In addition to faith and family, we had two things that bound us together for life: 1) Journalism, and 2) A love for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The Razorbacks thingy came from our papa, J.P., who was born in Ashdown, Ark., and taught us to call the Hogs almost before we could walk. J.P. had his priorities right.
Journalism-wise, Mike had a darn good resume (or ree-sue-me, as the late Sun Publisher Fred Hartman used to call it).
I hired him part-time when I was sports editor of The Bay City Daily Tribune. That didn’t last long (or did it?) because he was drafted into the Army.
We hugged and cried and said our goodbyes, and Mike was off to serve our country. It was a sad but proud day.
Except later that SAME day he walked back through the door at The Tribune. “I’m back,” he said.
A military physical found a heart murmur and he was sent home.
After Bay City, Mike joined the Corpus Christi Caller-Times sports staff which he didn’t enjoy much.
But another job opportunity was about to change his life forever.
He was hired as sports editor of The Altus Times-Democrat in Oklahoma by former Baytown Sun up-and-comer Jim Hale. And he was off and running.
Even more important than the job, however, Mike met Judy, the love of his life, as they say in good marriages everywhere. She was a gift from heaven, and proved to be an angel as she patiently walked him through health issues over the past years.
So, almost like a movie, the move to Oklahoma provided a good job and a good woman. It was a grand slam home run in every sense of the word(s).
Later, as the powerful managing editor of The Sun, I set nepotism aside, when nobody was looking, and hired Mike as sports editor. For the next nine years, life was a cabaret, old chum. We had a blast, and did some pretty fair work, too.
Mike finished his working career in customer service for Houston Lighting & Power. In other words, he “kept the lights on for you,” as they like to say at Motel 6.
Now he’s gone, and all this seems like it passed by at 1,000 mph.
As much as Mike’s passing hurts, the Good Lord did bless us with one last Christmas Day meal together. Less than 48 hours later, he was outta here.
Even though he’s been gone only a short time, I miss him already.
So two things I’ll end with: Rest well, my brother, and Go, Hogs!
Jim Finley is a retired managing editor of The Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Attention: Jim Finley.