This past Saturday morning, the sun was shining and my wife, CeCe, and I were taking in the start of a slow weekend with coffee on the front porch. She shared that she recently ran into Father Camp (who is 85 and retired from the ministry) and they had an interesting discussion on life and death. He shared how seeing so much death and ministering to those in grief has been one of the hardest things in his ministry and that we simply do not know the date we will meet our Maker. That is why it is so important to think about our dash—our legacy and how we impact others’ lives—today.
Later that afternoon, the phone rang and my sunny day turned cloudy. The tragic loss of my friend, guide and fishing buddy, Kerry Audibert, has left my heart so heavy and confused. Kerry took his own life on the night of May 5th. I guess part of the reason I am so stunned is my perception and belief was that Kerry would be one of the last people I could ever imagine considering something so tragic.
From the first day I met Kerry, we formed a special friendship as he was so full of life, mad at the fish (fishing term for loves to catch fish) and always had a smile on his face (unless you let a big trout get off right at the boat). We met by chance as he was one of the young captains who had been recruited to help out with a large charter (about 4 boats and 16 fishermen) and I was assigned to his boat.
Born and raised on the marshes, bayous and bays of southeast Louisiana, there are few people who knew more about catching fish than Capt. Kerry Audibert, Jr. The New Orleans native spent much of his youth exploring the vast regions near his family's camp on Cox Bay, on the east side of the Mississippi River in lower Plaquemines Parish. Kerry had a passion for trout fishing and he went out of his way on that first trip to make sure we had a great experience.
I laughed so hard as he started ribbing the other anglers on our boat as I got the hot spot and started bringing in a large trout on almost every cast. We bonded that first day in a way that was hard to explain, and soon I started fishing regularly with Kerry. We celebrated when his charter business got going and he was able to buy a new boat. And as our friendship grew, he started coming to my hunting camp each fall to enjoy hunting whitetail deer—a nice break from working with the public every day.
I saw Kerry go from a novice to an accomplished white tail deer hunter in just a few years. He was so scared he would shoot a deer too small for our club rules, that in all of his visits to our hunting camp, he never took a deer! I really regret that now and I certainly did not take enough pictures of him at camp. We both knew it was more than harvesting a deer; we had a blast hunting, sharing and enjoying way too much to eat. One year, he stayed almost an entire week with me at the camp with us hunting all day every day! He simply loved the outdoors.
Of course some of my fondest memories involve Captain Kerry and our mutual love of fishing. One of the pictures is Kerry with my grandson Davis catching his first trout ever. Kerry worked with Davis that day and had him fishing like a pro by the end of the morning. Davis also caught the biggest trout on that trip, a fact he has not let his daddy or me forget. The picture of Davis and I with the wind blowing our hair was on the front of Kerry’s boat as he expertly guided the boat through the marsh channels at speeds only an accomplished guide can do. I remember the August trip in the dead heat with my son Brandon on his birthday where we limited out on trout (75, as Kerry let us catch his limit) in 90 minutes. I remember the unexpected call this March to come down and fish, just the two of us, and I’m heartbroken because I didn’t make it happen.
I was scheduled to have dinner with Kerry on May 25th and fish on the 26th. I know that day will mean more grief for me and yes, I’m mad at Kerry. I know in my heart that what happened was unplanned and in a moment of insanity—a selfish act and certainly one that doesn’t fit with the man I knew. Kerry was 39 years young.
I have spent the afternoon creating my Captain Kerry photo album, crying, laughing and certainly reflecting. Life is precious, friends are precious, memories are precious. Don’t take them for granted. Be present, capture them, share them. Of course, one of my regrets is not making more of them with Kerry. Remember the words of Father Camp, “we do not know the date that marks the end of our dash.”
A sad time for all but the speckled trout in Breton Sound. Thanks for the privilege of sharing with you—it has helped my sad heart. God bless.