It's been about three weeks now since my family lost a dear son, brother, father, uncle, and friend. My uncle, Toby Eddings, passed away on July 24, 2010 at the age of 52. It was the that day his daughter Tiffany was married and on a weekend that brought the highest and lowest of emotions to my family.
It occurs to me that I have yet to properly say goodbye to my friend, and he was a friend. With the fast-paced life I've chosen to take on working in NASCAR (where I fly to a track on Thursday, go hard for three days, fly home Sunday night, and spend two days recovering before prepping and heading to another city) I've found it difficult to stop and take a minute and see what's happening around me.
Often in life, we never realize how much someone means to you until they are gone. This is no different. Never again will I be able to jab with him about college football at Thanksgiving. Never again will he be pestered by my grandmother (his mother) and my mom (his sister) about going to the doctor, or wearing cologne at the dinner table (which I laughed at even if nobody else did.) And never again will I be able to share stories of my career as a sports journalist.
He and I shared a lot of similarities. Both of us caught the journalism "bug" at an early age. He was a statistician for Camden High School athletics as a teenager. He worked for WACA Radio in Camden, S.C., which later became WCAM Radio and eventually into WPUB/WCAM Radio, where I spent seven years of my life as an on-air talent.
We both grew up in the same house - my room was the same room he once had. He enjoyed making people laugh, much as I do, and we both had no greater joy than impressing my mom and grandmother talking sports on the couch at home.
Both of us stubborn, thinking we know more than everyone else (I also get this from my dad so don't think the Mays side of my family is no different.) And both of us share a very dry wit and sense of humor.
I remember the first time I got to sit in the play-by-play chair as voice of the Camden Bulldogs. The regular play-by-play guy had a separate engagement and was unable to announce that night. I got tagged to fill his spot. It was my audition as a year later I became the full-time Voice of the Bulldogs. Toby listened that night on the internet and later wrote a very flattering blog post, hailing my ability and the fact that he was proud of my career choice.
I wish I had kept that blog post - I can't find it online anymore.
Later as I grew as an announcer, and then when I was hired by Sprint Vision in January, his pride in me grew. I've learned in the last few days that he often bragged about me to his friends and co-workers.
I know his life at times wasn't easy. His divorce, numerous medical problems, and having to move to Georgia and then North Carolina to find a newspaper job were all difficult times. But I think that didn't bother him. At the end of the day he was able to be proud of what he'd done that day.
I said earlier you often don't realize things until its too late to do anything about it. I hadn't seen him since Christmas. And now living just 40 minutes away from him, I feel worse that I never made an effort to drive down after work just to go have dinner or share a story.
Not to get too sappy, but I encourage whoever reads this to make that effort.
The past few weeks have been difficult for all of us and I'm sure in the weeks and months ahead, particularly the holidays, will be even tougher.
I take comfort in the fact that he was a very religious man, and also that his ailments that took such a toll on him over the past two years are no longer hurting him. I wish I could have spent more time with him over the years, but the memories will always be special.
I feel the most pain for my grandmother, my mom, his children - son, daughter, and son-in-law - and especially to his friends that he touched on a daily basis.
We all must go on. Life doesn't stop, for me especially. So with this, I say goodbye to my uncle. My friend. He's really not gone as long as we remember him.