Brian St. Louis loved hockey. He loved being the hockey director and youth hockey coach at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex. He and his wife Emily, pregnant with their first child, had just closed on a townhouse. Life was good.
Brian and his wife Emily were also the best-friend couple of Mark and Lori, and Brandon and Sarah. The guys had all worked at the Country Club of Woodmore until Brian left for his new hockey job, winning the position more on his passion than technical qualifications.
This trifecta of couple-friends bonded in bizarre and wonderful ways. They dressed up as each other at Halloween. They played garage hockey for hours on Friday nights. They had to be shooed out of the maternity ward when Sarah, the first to start the next generation of BFFs, gave birth to daughter Annabelle in 2008.
Twenty seven is too young to die, whether it’s from gunfire in Afghanistan or southeast DC, a car crash or an accident. In Brian’s case, he left us way too early because of, ironically, an enlarged heart.
The service last September was a homage to hockey, with Brian in his beloved Capitals jersey and cap. Little hockey-player boys in little gray suits tried their very best to be brave as they wiped tears and noses. Emily, already showing in her black dress, sat stoically, flanked by Sarah (pregnant again) and Lori (pregnant now). It was pouring rain that day. The only sounds in the cemetery were raindrops, a lone bagpiper and tears.
And time goes on. The five of them celebrated Thanksgiving with 30 pounds of turkey. Christmas came and went. Sarah and Brandon welcomed little Kaleb earlier this month. Emily was in the delivery room and it had quite an effect on her: Brayden was born two days later. Those angelic nurses at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis watched Kaleb while Emily delivered, so Sarah and Lori could both be her birthing coach, just like they had planned. Sarah and Emily were then placed in adjoining rooms, so Kaleb and Brayden could be, literally, BFFs from birth.
One more thing.
Brandon is my stepson and Sarah is my daughter-in-law. And in the last six months my husband Mike and I have watched this drama of indescribable shock, abandonment and ultimately joy unfold through their eyes.
Mike and I babysat Annabelle the day Kaleb was born. We ran into Emily on the maternity floor. She was wearing a college hoodie, her wedding rings on a chain around her neck. Her baby would arrive within 48 hours, and she had met our grandson before we did.
As it should be.
And so on April 18, Mike and I and this fantastic five will be at the Country Club of Woodmore, supporting the Brian and Emily St. Louis Fund. Mike has already rounded up a few groups of golfers. I’ll be doing whatever I can, as long as it doesn’t involve hitting a little white ball with a skinny iron club.
We hope you’ll join us.
Get Out and Give Back is now on Facebook. Jane Hess Collins helps and encourages people to give back through her writing, speaking, coaching and workshops. She also established game nights for at-risk families throughout the country. You can contact her at www.getoutandgiveback.com.