Casey Spradling seemed to be everywhere, all the time.
Since we met 13 years ago as college freshmen, we seemed to always bump into each other.
We had many of the same classes at Itawamba Community College and ran in similar circles while at Ole Miss.
After graduation, I never was surprised to run up on him anywhere, either just out about in Tupelo or while both of us were at work.
Casey was a behind-the-scenes guy for so many films, and in covering my beat, I often ran into him on a movie set, at a film festival or premiere of a locally made film.
I always smiled when I caught his name in movie credits.
I never spent hours upon hours with him. Our encounters were usually relatively brief, but always memorable.
He never minced words, but wasn’t brash. He wasn’t a social butterfly, yet seemed to know – and be friendly with – literally every person he met. He could break your heart and make you laugh at the same time. That was just Casey.
This past February, I ran into him at the Oxford Film Festival. It had been a long while since I’d last seen him, but catching up with Casey was always easy.
As soon as you ran into him, he made you feel like you’d just hung out with him the day before.
We had a while to wait before the first film began, so we caught up on each other’s lives, and before I knew it, our discussion became deep. We both had many of the same fears and anxieties about our lives and our jobs, our goals and our potential downfalls.
It wasn’t long after the festival that Casey sent me a Facebook message, checking in. And there for a while, we kept up regularly. We’d just check in to see if the other had a good day, and if the other hadn’t, we were there to listen.
One particularly low day, all I could say was that it had been a bad day. Casey wrote back immediately, offering to do anything he could to make things better.
It was such a simple and sweet gesture, but I knew he meant it. It meant the world to me, and I told him so.
A few weeks ago, he told me he had some big film jobs lined up, and he was excited. I don’t think I’d ever heard him talk so happily, and hopefully, about his future.
But then, last week, Casey collapsed while working on a film in Jackson.
After he went into the hospital, his Facebook page blew up with friends and colleagues from all over the world wishing him a speedy recovery that, unfortunately, wouldn’t happen.
He died on Friday.
He was 31.
It’s been incredible to see how many lives he touched.
So many people had stories like mine, that Casey had been there for them when they needed him most.
And truly, I think that’s what Casey did best.
He was so caring. He gave without asking for anything in return.
He taught me a lot of things, most importantly, how to care for someone.
This world lost a true gentleman. I lost a good friend.
It feels so weird to know I’ll never run into him again on a set or at the movies. My heart breaks when I log into Facebook and know I’ll never again have a surprise message from him, wishing me a good day or simply asking if I’m OK. I wasn’t ready to be done talking; I still had more to say, and I know he did, too.
I keep trying to tell myself our conversations aren’t over, and that we’ll talk again some day.
But in the meantime, I am sure going to miss him.
Sheena Barnett writes about entertainment and the arts for the Daily Journal. Contact her at (662) 678-1580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.