Jay Bell, my good friend from Bradenton-Fun-in-the-Sun-Baby-Florida, was worried on Monday.
He found out a tornado had hit Tupelo, then went to DJournal.com.
“If something happened to you, Morris,” he said, “who’s going to write my eulogy?”
If you know anything about Jay Bell, you know he’s the rowdier of the two of us. We’ve both assumed he’d beat me to the grave, and I’d stand up in front of his family and friends to celebrate the Jaybird’s life.
“But don’t mention the Jaybird,” he said. “Maybe you should write my eulogy now and let me approve it.”
“I’d put in too many jokes if I wrote about you now,” I said.
“Good point,” he said, and the line went quiet until he added, “Maybe I should make more writer friends.”
Jay’s visited Tupelo several times over the past 17 years, so he’s made some friends and gotten to know a few of the town’s landmarks.
“I saw Outback was hit, and so was Villanova’s,” he said.
“That’s the one.”
His week was filled with reminders of mortality. I don’t know if I mentioned that he’d joined the Elks Lodge, and one of his fellows was buried the other day.
“It was full military honors at a national cemetery, the only one in Florida,” he said.
As unconventional as Jay can be, he retains many of the smalltown values he’d learned growing up in Mexico, Mo.
“I was the only one there in a suit and tie, white shirt, everything. That’s what you wear to a funeral,” he said. “People were there in Tommy Bahama shirts and shorts. Some wore blue jeans. It was definitely relaxed.
“I understand, now. This is Florida,” he continued. “The whole time I was one foot from the shade. There was a tent, but I was in the back because I was one of the tallest. I was sweating in my jacket something fierce.”
“Taps” was played, and riflemen fired into the air three times.
“It was seven or eight of them,” he said.
“Seven,” I said. “It was a 21-gun salute.”
He quickly did the math and told me I was probably right.
“I really was worried, you know,” he said. “With the tornado hitting and not knowing what might’ve happened to you or your family. I was at work and I started shaking. I had to go outside.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t let you know sooner,” I said. “It was busy around here.”
“No problem,” he said.
“If something did happen to me …,”
“What? You want me to take care of Michaela and the kids?”
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” I said. “No, I was going to say, feel free to wear shorts and a Hawaiian shirt at my funeral.”
“No chance,” he said. “It’ll be suit and tie all the way, brother.”
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.