You know that type of person, the ones you are always glad to see. The ones who light up a room with their natural smile and witty remark. The ones with whom you can pick up a conversation as if you’d just talked the day before, even when you hadn’t seen each other for years.
My cousin, Kurt Mackey, was one of those. On August 5, the light he shined on earth went dark. In our hearts, his light will continue to radiate with the joy he brought us.
Kurt was fifty years old. On August 3, he took a spill, hitting his head. Hidden internal bleeding was the culprit that finally overwhelmed his body.
It took a lot to overwhelm Kurt’s body. He lived with diabetes. He was just a young kid when that nasty condition struck. A decade or so ago it caused him to require a kidney transplant.
I’ve known many people who are diabetic. I can’t think of a one who didn’t handle the malady with grace. The daily checking of their blood sugar. The ongoing doses of insulin. The ways in which the ailment attacks the body, one of the common evidences being what Kurt experienced with his kidneys.
If you didn’t know they were diabetic, you wouldn’t know it by their words or actions. That was Kurt.
I’m just about the last relative who should be writing about Kurt. I didn’t know him nearly well enough. What I know, I hope adds up to a fitting tribute, because what I know is that Kurt was one of those people I was always glad to see and, for how little time we spent with each other over the years, when we saw each other you’d think we hung out together all the time.
Kurt is noteworthy for me, because he is the first person in my life whose birth I specifically recall the date. It was Columbus Day, 1968. I was eleven. At the time, I told my mom that I couldn’t remember when any other cousin had been born, or even the date my youngest brother, Mark, was born. But, Kurt’s birth stuck, and never slipped from my mind.
With eleven years between us, we didn’t have a natural bond when it came to family gatherings. Yet, when he was old enough to show his keen wit, it was on display. The kid made me laugh. Sheesh, that punk was almost as funny as me.
Because I moved away, there was a long time that we didn’t see each other. Facebook reconnected us, and his goofiness, which matches up so well with my own, came through on many of his comments online, but it wasn’t until 2015 that we spent time together.
And that he gave me two hours of his time filled in everything I needed to know about him.
My sister, Sue, had undergone back surgery. She lives in Grand Rapids. I drove up from Indy to spend a couple of days with her while she was hospitalized.
As I arrived, doctors and nurses were rushing to Sue. She had suffered a pulmonary embolism—a blood clot in her lung. A huge one. Soon, her doctor revealed to Sue’s daughter, Cara, and me that she was very pessimistic that Sue was going to survive.
We kept vigil with Sue.
Kurt, and his lovely wife, Cindy, lived nearby. The third day I was there, Kurt walked into Sue’s room, his natural smile bursting from his face as his surprise entrance brought me to my feet with instant joy.
This was the day we got to know each other. Kurt showed that he knew how to hold a conversation, as we bounced questions back and forth, this one filling in how he went to college, and got married, and the work he did, and then the other having the chance to do the same.
And we laughed. That natural ability he had to find the funny aspect to you name it. He was still almost as funny as me (wink).
I’m sure I said a half dozen times, “Hey, you’ve been here awhile. I bet you need to get going.” “Nope. I don’t need to meet Cindy until…” and we kept talking.
Those were a few tough days in the hospital, not knowing whether Sue would make it and, even when she rallied, she mostly was out of it and slept. That afternoon, Kurt bridged the boredom gap for me. Thanks, bud.
Finally, there was last month. Indeed, it was exactly one month before he breathed his last and went home to the Lord. On July 5, we enjoyed a splendid reunion.
Julie and I were in my hometown of Montague for the first week of July. I posted something on Facebook about it, which our cousin, Kim, picked up. She said that a bunch of them would be in Muskegon for the weekend, for the graduation party of the daughter of yet another cousin. Kim put together a gathering, nicely enough, at my son’s pizza joint, Rebel Pies.
Here’s the gang who gathered that evening.
I could write plenty about each one at this hastily-arranged reunion. Indeed, I had not seen Uncle Ky, my Godfather, since we laid to rest his wife, Aunt Ginger, a quarter of a century earlier.
I hadn’t seen Kurt since that day in Sue’s hospital room. Four year’s time meant nothing. We met, we hugged, we were off and running. I tried to keep pace with his quips.
As wonderful as was being with Kurt that evening was that Cindy sat next to me. This was the first conversation I ever got to have with her. What a delight it was. I can best sum it up by quoting from her Facebook post from the evening of Kurt’s passing.
She called Kurt her best friend.
Getting to know her a month earlier, I saw why it was so. One as lovely as the other. A nicely-matched pair of human beings.
The Lord be with you, Cindy. With the spirit you showed me last month, I know you will continue to shine brightly wherever you go, in whatever you do.
Everything else I might say about Kurt—for instance, he was a fine musician—my telling pales in comparison to what his six older siblings and good friends can tell, so I will leave it to them and conclude with another thing Cindy noted when informing us of Kurt’s passing.
She rightly stated that Kurt had gone to our heavenly Father.
Because God gave His only Son to be our Savior, Kurt, you are safe in Jesus. Now, we will keep the faith that we might join you in the best reunion of all, the eternal one of Paradise with our Jesus.
The Lord Jesus is the reason I titled this piece, “So long for now, dear Kurt.”
And you, dear cousin, are the reason I will enjoy being with you, forever.