You meet a lot of people and you become friends with a few of them, but sometimes there is one person you become really good friends with. Kevin Watts is one of those friends whom I had become very close.
In the last several months, I’ve become more involved in Kevin’s life. Kevin had been going through a lot of things that had come crashing down all at once. Kevin tried to handle his problems on his own, like the trooper he was, never trying to let it get him down, but deep inside I could see a change in his life.
I lost a friend two years ago that was also close to me and he also had a lot of things he was struggling with so I knew it was important to take a special interest in making him feel loved and in constant contact. When he died, Kevin was the person that helped me through one of the most tragic events I had when it came to a close friend. We seem to be inseparable, hanging out all the time and texting each other all the time. He always kept a smile on his face and that’s one thing I loved about Kevin even when things were rough Kevin always smiled which helped me a lot. Now it was time for me to step up and make sure I was there for him.
Whenever I went out to the bar, a party or a restaurant, I always thought about Kevin and made sure he was included. Whenever he wanted to go and have a bite to eat he would always contact me to join him. His favorite food was Mexican. One of the most recent memories was a couple of months ago, he called me to have dinner with him at the place Obama had dinner at, so I was excited to try the place out. When I arrived, he was there waiting on me with a smile on his face that dimple showing so deep. I noticed his hair had grown out into a longer style. It was sort of funny to me because he had this long piece of hair that he kept sweeping back from his forehead. His appearance had changed for the better. I thought to myself, my old Kevin is back! We had a wonderful time that night talking and carrying on about everything.
As the night went on we saw these two guys talking in sign language. In true Kevin fashion, Kevin went over and introduced himself to them. Next thing I knew, the two guys came over and sat at our table. We pulled out our cell phones and started talking to them via text message. Kevin even knew some sign languages. Kevin was very attentive to them the whole time and made sure they saw our lips as we spoke and included them in our conversation.
That’s what I like about Kevin, he never met a stranger. Kevin liked you for who you were, not what you looked like or how much money you had. That night took us to The Stirrup, Kevin’s favorite drinking spot. As we sat there with these two strangers that we had just met, we talked, texted, sign language and drank for several hours. We had one of the best times. Kevin made sure that he talked to them so they could read his lips and included them in all our conversation.
As I think back about the last several weeks, I saw great signs of improvement in Kevin’s life. He had gotten a new job, sold his house and had a place to stay until his condo was available. He was full of energy and life again. Then the last time I saw him in person was the end of March at the Rugby 3rd half party. I texted him and asked that he join me and I was even buying (if you don't know me, it’s something I seldom do). He came out and he had one of the biggest smiles on his face. I took a photo of him to treasure that smile of his face, little did I know it would be my last. I was glad he was out and he was among friends.
The last text I received was last week when he asked to do lunch and unfortunately I had to travel out of town. He asked when I would be back. I told him Sunday. The next day when I got off the plane I saw a text from Kevin that read “Safe travels.” That was the last text from him. That text means so much more now because it showed his unselfish love and concerns for his friends.
On Saturday around 9am I was awake and started looking at old photos when I came across an old photo I took back in 2010 when we celebrated his birthday in Louisville. We hung out at the hotel all day, Kevin Rodney, Jeff, Josh and I, listening to music talking about everything and things. We did our ritual facials, where we put green masque on our faces. I took a photo of that moment since it was a fun day.
As I looked at the photo I thought, I should send this to Kevin. I texted “Friends always miss you. Hope to see you soon for facial nite.” Little did I know at the time that would be my last text to him. Later that day I found out he had passed.
How could my friend who was so full of life with so much going on for him no longer be with us? I still have a hard time believing he is no longer here and I refuse to believe that he would do harm to himself. But I guess you never know what’s going on in someone’s mind. Behind that smile was someone that was hurting and being the person he was, he never let anyone know exactly what he was going through because he kept a smile on his face.
The other day I saw Kevin’s family to pay my respect and visit with them. When I got ready to leave, I said to Mrs. Watts, “Thank you.” She looked at me with tears in her eyes and a strange look on her face. I said “Thank you for bringing Kevin into our lives.”
His smile will forever be in my memory and his love for me will always be in my heart. I will miss him.
Until we meet again, Kevin, take care and say hello to Joe, my brother and Will, my friend.
One last thing, Sarah, his best girlfriend, said it best when she talked about Kevin, she referred to him as “Our Kevin.” And that’s what Kevin was OUR KEVIN.
Rest in Peace OUR KEVIN.
For a collection of photos of Kevin, see https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#AC5VaUrzGVMFbC
Nashville psychotherapist Barbara Sanders on coping with the death of Kevin Watts
Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network on the death of Kevin Watts