Brent Maze: Saying goodbye way too soon

By BRENT MAZE,

Please bear with me as I try to get through this.

I feel like I’ve been procrastinating trying to write this column. Maybe it’s because I don’t want the facts to be true.

On Sunday morning, my good friend Kevin Flannagan was found passed away at his home in Huntsville, Ala. He was 39.

Some of our readers may know him. He formerly served as the music director at First United Methodist Church of Philadelphia. He helped reorganize the Fair City Chorale, a few members of which were from Newton County.

During his time here, we developed a good friendship that continued after he left to move back closer to his family. At the time, his mom was facing terminal cancer and got a chance to be with her many of her final weeks on earth.

Kevin could get along with anyone, but he was a person that could be misunderstood. He, like me, was a single man. And that can be difficult transition from his home of Bristol, Va., and coming to small-town Mississippi. He talked numerous times about his drive to and from home about how different that was, especially coming the shorter route that takes you through Scooba.

But when he moved to the Huntsville area and became music director at First United Methodist Church of Hazel Green, Ala., it felt like he finally found where he was supposed to be. He immediately plugged into the metropolitan area there, becoming a part of the Huntsville Master Chorale and the Encore Opera group. He was able to affect so many people in a short period of time.

He found a church he loved and that loved him. While everything was not always perfect, he was content with the life he had. He worried about his family and wanted things to get back to normal after his mom passed away.

Personally, Kevin became my best friend. It was a little awkward at first. I’m not the easiest person to become close friends with. I struggle with trying to talk about issues going on in my life, and he was able to bring those things out and help me process what my thoughts and feelings were.

He held me accountable for being late, whether it was being late to come see him, getting on the road to see my family or taking care of business I needed to handle. He said I’d always be late to my own funeral. I’d always tell him, “That’s something I don’t mind being late for.”

Kevin made it a point to touch base with me every day. He initiated about 90 percent of the calls, but I did beat him to the punch a few times.

I usually initiated the text conversations. That was usually when I came up with a pun or found a really good one. I can’t tell you how many times he texted me back, “groan.” There were a few times he actually did laugh, and maybe just once, I think those crazy puns might have helped him get through a tough day.

He asked me if the puns ever stop. I responded, “If I didn’t send them to you, you’d think there’s something wrong with me.” He agreed.

I’m glad I got to see him one last time over New Year’s. I had no idea that would be our last time to see each other.

I got worried on Saturday when he never texted me back. I was trying to tell him that I used his advice to get out and do something productive on the weekend, like visiting the Civil Rights Museum in Jackson. He never responded back. I tried to call, and he didn’t pick up.

I tried to send him a Facebook message, and noticed he hadn’t been active on social media for over 10 hours. That was odd.

I tried to reach out to his church family on Saturday night. The next morning, the associate pastor contacted me back to let me know he didn’t show up for worship. They called the police, and after their church service, she let me know that the police found him already gone.

I just don’t have words to express. I had no idea that our phone call on Friday night as I was driving back home would be the last time we’d speak.

Kevin, thank you for being my friend. You’ve taught me a lot about friendship and how I need to treat people. I think you helped me way more than I ever helped you. I hope to one day see you again on the other side of eternity.

Brent Maze is the publisher of the Appeal. Contact Brent at bmaze@newtoncounty­appeal.com.