Kevin was a firefighter, a soldier, and a very complicated man. But to me, he was my best friend, with some baggage. And I’m cool with baggage. We all have it. Kev and I talked every single day. We knew EVERYTHING about each other. We would stay on the phone while he was at the fire station and I was sewing... Sometimes not even talking, for four hours at a time, just to be there for each other. He just needed to know someone was there. He didn’t like to be alone. He didn’t like to sleep alone. And he became part of my family. This may not make sense to anyone else, but Memorial Day is not just a weekend holiday, it’s a weekend to remember those lost to war, or the after effects of war. So this is for Kevin. Kev had been in the army since he was 18. This was something that was an integral part of being him. It was also what hindered him in his search for inner peace. I knew all about what he had seen, and what he had been through. We would stay up and drink some nights on his grandfather’s porch, and he would show me pictures from Afghanistan, his guns, his memories. He joked A LOT about suicide, and how fucked up he was. I tried to help him through his thoughts, and he tried to work through those thoughts. I was the supportive friend that showed him why life was worth living, and how he could find what he needed by surrounding himself with good people and creating new experiences that would help fade his bad memories. We would go out with his army buddies when they were visiting, he would go over stories of things that sounded like movies scenes…. He let me into a world I never knew existed. He was the first person that was involved in the army that I was this close with, that had been through war. He changed my entire life on the topic of the military, of veterans, and of loss. When my grandmother and my dad passed away, he would give me his best advice on how to cope with death. He would drink to their memories with me, and he would tell me it would eventually become just a part of my life; the loss. I didn’t know his advice about my recent loss would also apply to his. Kevin and I were both in relationships during this whole time. We were very supportive of each others lives. He eventually got engaged, but it didn’t end up working out. Time had passed, and after the engagement ended, he told me he was in love with me. I figured, he is my best friend, we can literally do anything and everything around each other, why not give dating a shot.
So we started slow. When we first met he joked about wanting to take a girl to Blue Man Group for a date. We set our first date for Valentine’s day, and sure as shit, he brought me to a fancy french dinner, and Blue Man Group. We were anything but fancy, and he was the most sarcastic human the world has ever known. So following that perfectly planned date, we went to Kowloon’s, and then a local dive bar, all dressed up, because why the hell not. We had an awesome time. We always did! After a few weeks of easing into dating, I could tell he was finally finding some peace and happiness in the world. He was done with his responsibilities to the army, and he was finally able to live his life. The problem was, he was always questioning everything he did in terms of relationships and trying to be happy because I think he felt like he didn’t deserve to be happy. After a while, I really thought I could help him heal. But one morning at 10am, all of that changed. He called me, (he knew I was always asleep until noon due to my career but that didn’t stop him from waking me up. I left my phone off silent because I knew he may need to talk in the morning, even if it was just to bug me), and he had something to tell me. He said he had re-upped with the army and he was leaving in a few weeks for Afghanistan. He left it up to me if he stayed or left. But how do I ask someone to stay when they have already signed up to leave? We had made plans for the spring, made plans for the future, we had even joked but were mildly serious about getting married because we knew we were the only two people that would ever put up with each other. But none of that mattered. He chose to plunge back in to the army because he was finally happy and he couldn’t handle that. When I didn’t give in to his ultimatum of do you want me to stay or go, when he already signed back up to leave, behind my back, knowing I would never want him to leave NOW, I said you do what you have to do. And he did. I pushed him away for weeks until he was about to leave. We hung out to say our goodbyes, but I was confused, hurt, and mad. While he was gone, he would email me to tell me how much he realized he fucked up, how much he missed me, and how much he wished he could take it all back. At this point, he was sitting on mountains, waiting for an ambush, but when he got back to his base, he would message me. Looking back on those messages, I wish I could summon a wizard to turn back time, so that I could change my responses. But, with what he said in his messages and his actions when we started actually dating, I had no choice but to see him as a man that had wronged me in the dating world, as opposed to my best friend. Biggest mistake of my life. Women are supposed to be strong, and intolerant of men treating them badly. I fully support this notion. But had I looked at it differently, I may not be writing this. He survived his stint in Afghanistan and made it back home safely. But when he came back, he was being as heartfelt as he was before I knew he wanted to run away, and I was being prideful and cautious. In seeing my reaction, he pulled back, and we both moved forward with our lives. He started dating a great girl, and I was seeing someone as well. He went back to being a firefighter where he had been before. But, he eventually moved from the local fire station, to one a bit further away. I kept him at arm’s length for long time. He eventually reached back out to try to work things out friendship wise and beyond. I assumed I would have all the time in the world to figure out what we meant to each other, so I pushed all of his advances aside. I still couldn’t make sense of him leaving for the army as soon as he and I were starting something. As I said, Kevin was super sarcastic, and he almost never said anything nice. But that was 100% part of his charm. When he started being complimentary, and sweet, I should have known something was wrong. I remember one of his last text messages to me. He said I was beautiful. I knew he thought that, but text message wise, we would always banter jokingly, and that was alarmingly real. A few weeks later, I was out at a bar we used to hang out, and I found out he had committed suicide. My best friend, turned someone I discussed marriage with, turned ex, turned the biggest regret I would ever have for not doing more… Was suddenly gone. And I found out through a mutual friend, at a fucking bar. This went on to be the worst week of my life. Clearly it was beyond the worst week of his, and I hadn’t allowed him to think he could come to me about it. I’m not writing this in any artistic way that I would normally write. This is as factual and straightforward as I can be, because I am doing what you are actually supposed to do on Memorial Day. I’m remembering an amazing friend and person and loved one that was lost to the effects of war and the weight it carries, in order to protect OUR lives… among his other hindrances that added to his ultimate demise. This is a VERY brief description of my connection with a man, who sacrificed his life at age 18 and beyond, to protect all of the people in the vast country we live in. This is, furthermore, a way to shed light on how someone can assume they aren’t worthy of happiness, but have no problem sacrificing their entire life for people they have never met, including you – whoever you are reading this. I’m not writing this for any other reason than to tell the world that Kevin O’boyle was caring, funny, talented, a soldier, and a leader. He was a sweet, amazing man who would’ve man a wonderful partner in life for any friend or lover, if he had just forgiven himself of all the things that he thought he couldn’t get past. Next time you think of Memorial Day, think of Kevin. Memorial day is every time I experience something that reminds me of him, which is often. It’s not just today. I hope he knows that.