I got back from my trip Friday afternoon. The trip was a sad one, as the reason for my return was to attend the funeral of one of my oldest friends, Kinney Stanton. There’s nothing I can say, in person or on the internet, that will dull the pain that Kinney’s untimely death has caused his family and friends. I was told that the line at the visitation at the funeral home on Wednesday evening was the longest in Cheraw history. I don’t doubt it- there were a lot of people there. I hope there’s a TV in heaven so Kinney could see how much he was loved and by how many. And of course so he can watch his Clemson football games.
One last gift Kinney gave his friends was to bring us together at and after his funeral. I saw some dear friends that I hadn’t seen for far too long. The afternoon at that bar on Highway 9 was special, as were the trips back to the ice house and dinner Wednesday night. Kinney was a “people person” and he brought people together, even after he could no longer join us. I rebuilt valued connections with a lot of people whom I care for deeply. Just one more in a long list of things Kinney did for others.
Kinney was not a perfect person- none of us are. But in the end people should be judged by their hearts. And Kinney’s heart was always in the right place. We were lifelong friends. We did good together. We raised hell together. We were allies and, on occasion, we strongly and even violently disagreed. We made each other laugh a lot, and we talked about life’s mysteries and challenges. But through it all, I never doubted Kinney’s heart. He cared for people deeply, maybe even too deeply.
Phil Lee has a song called The Mighty King of Love. The first time I heard it years ago, it reminded me of Kinney. The best part goes:
You call me the King of Love
Don’t I wish I were
I wouldn’t even call myself
A gifted amateur
I am the king of nothing
I am mostly skin and bone
And of all the broken hearts I broke
I mostly broke my own
One final thing I would note, to demonstrate the strength and kindness of the people who come from my hometown. At the visitation, in a time of almost unbearable grief, Kinney’s dad, who was one of my dad’s close friends, told me that he wanted to tell me a story about my dad sometime. The next day, just after the service, he sat me down in a folding chair and told me a story about my dad. The only stories I really know about my dad are the ones that he and others have told me, and I’m sure he knows that. The fact the he would take the time to tell me a story during such a sad time both humbles me as a human being and makes me unbelievably proud of where I come from. It is the Prettiest Town in Dixie, but not just because of the dogwoods.
My trip home was so intensely sad, but it was a healing thing as well. I am still sad about all the loss, but somehow it feels like things might turn out OK. There’s a ways to go, but thanks to the Mighty King of Love, we have a chance.
Kinney (right) with Thomas Burr, another lifelong friend, on the playground at Robert Smalls Elementary, 1971