My friend Sugar was killed in a motorcycle accident last week, and I just found out yesterday. We worked together for over 5 years, developing a fun relationship where we would email and text each other like two naughty students passing notes in class. An accomplished bass player and songwriter, he was in a couple of bands while I knew him (many before that) and he humbly gave me their CD’s and always made sure to send me a postcard from the Corn Palace or Germany when he was on tour. He and his wife – a beautiful and powerful singer – came to see me play and sing in the band I was in, and Sugar was always full of positive encouragement for my music, bringing me Sarah’s special tea and honey to ensure a smooth voice before a gig. He was an avid motorcycle rider, but he never made fun of the scooter I rode – the little sister to his gorgeous Harley. We got together several times outside of work, and after circumstances separated us a year-and-a-half ago, we still kept in touch, sporadically, via phone.
When does a friendship evolve from nearly daily checking-in calls, where you lift the other up, help them over an obstacle, calm them down when they’re in a fit of fury, to those people who say: “We’ve really got to get together sometime…” but you don’t, and then suddenly they're taken, and through the tears you’re left wondering why you missed that last show they played, and you find yourself lost in a picture of his handsome face and a smile that always left you feeling better. He was gentle, sincere, and yes, sweet like his name. He was a cowboy, a rock star, a whiskey-drinking friend to giggle with. You search for YouTube videos so you can hear his soft voice and admire his all-black cowboy outfit and signature shades – he was a sharp dresser on and off stage. Then you stumble across the story of the accident and see his motorcycle abandoned on the grass and the weeping starts again. And then your thoughts bleed out to all your other friends who may have fallen into that same category: “We’ve really got to get together sometime…” and feel overwhelmed that maybe tomorrow will be too late.