When I woke up last Thursday morning, I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t know how bad it was going to be.
My day started as it usually does, with me picking up my phone and seeing what messages had come in overnight. I always turn my ringer off before I go to sleep, so my habit is to check to see what I missed overnight first thing every morning.
On this day, I was eager to look through my messages, as my son and his wife are expecting their first born child any day. I was wondering if anything had happened overnight. When I picked up my phone and noticed I had missed a few early morning calls from my pal David Stewart, I knew something was wrong. If he was calling me that early, I just knew something was not right. I dreaded making the return phone call, but I eventually made it.
“Hey David,” I said as cheerfully as I could. “What’s up with you this morning?”
“Well buddy, we lost Pete last night,” he replied.
“We lost Pete?” I inquired, as the thought had not registered yet in my head. “Did something happen to Pete Wilkerson?”
“Yes, he passed away last night.”
I was stunned and I was crushed.
Pete was my friend. When I first moved to Gonzales, Pete and his wife LeAnn were two of the first people I met. They made me feel at home here. We got to be good friends and shared lots of laughs together.
But to have him suddenly taken from us is just plain wrong.
Pete had been suffering from back pain. He tried just about anything and everything to solve the pain he was experiencing. He finally convinced his doctor to operate on his back, and he was looking forward to the surgery in the hope of finding permanent relief.
On Wednesday night, we held a Come and Taste It volunteer thank you party at Boomers, and everyone inquired as to how his surgery had gone earlier that day. We were all relieved when we were told that the surgery had gone well, that he was resting comfortably and would be released on Thursday night or Friday.
To hear that he had died was so sudden and so shocking that everyone is still numb from the sheer audacity of the good Lord taking him from us unexpectedly.
Pete was a man’s man. He was one of the best athletes to ever come out of Gonzales High School, and still holds some school football records. He played minor league baseball, and may have made it to the big leagues if he hadn’t torn up his knee.
He married his childhood sweetheart, LeAnn May, and they had two wonderful sons together. Fifteen years ago, they lost their best friend and decided to name their bar after him. Later, they started a catfish fishing tournament in his honor, and have donated tens of thousands of dollars in college scholarships to local students who graduate from Gonzales High School. That’s the kind of man he was.
I am going to miss my brother from another mother. Words cannot describe how awful I feel for LeAnn and her two boys, and Pete’s two brothers Harlo and John Henry and sisters Pat and JoAnn. My thoughts and prayers are with them every day.
I only hope that the Divine Providence that took Pete from us now holds him in the palm of His hand. Pete is on another journey now, and I wish him well. I can only take comfort from the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
Come, my friends.
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,--
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.