My alarm just went off reminding me to blog today, since I am just recommitting, but the timing is almost comical. Not even an hour ago, I found out that a dear friend and colleague, THE Mr. Tony Boler passed away in his sleep and right now I can hardly see through the tears.
Tony Boler was one of several amazing men of character, discipline, humor, and talent that became my family at WDKX in Rochester, NY. Just graduating and starting my first TV Reporting job at what was R News, I was asked to start filling in on the morning radio show at WDKX. Little did I know that even after a move away from Rochester, it would be WDKX that brought me back to the city. My damn colleagues had found a way to become my family without me even knowing it and Tony was the slyest of them all with that. I would walk into the station on weekend mornings (when I didn’t work, mind you) like an expectant toddler who knows her favorite uncle is right behind those doors with a triple-scoop ice cream cone just for her! Tony just oozed comfort, and fun, and support, and JOY! And THAT voice! Y’all! If you haven’t had the honor of hearing his voice on the airwaves, you have missed out and better catch some reairs, because his voice – his deep, buttery voice – would make Morgan Freeman, Isaac Hayes, and Mr. Darth Vader himself just say, “F it! I had a nice career, but Tony Boler just sunned me so I’m out.”
When my parents came to visit me in Rochester, WDKX was the first place I took them to so they could meet my new Rochester family and Tony and owner Dre in particular. I wanted to show off my ‘new uncles’ and show that I was in great hands, which, from their smiles you can see they knew it to be true.
When Kuti and I had our daughter, we hopped in the car for a what-was-supposed-to-be 6-hour road trip (it wound up being nine thanks to weather) with a 4-month old for the station’s 40th anniversary. My family grew so, of course, my Rochester peeps needed to meet her as well. Tony was right there – proud and congratulatory with a huge, proud smile.
Tony had a loving wife and amazing children he loved and thought the world of. I’m ancillary to this whole thing. His family is devastated, as are his close friends. I surely am not trying to make this about me and my grief at all, especially when, like kids in families do, I moved away and we really only relied on Facebook for updates for a long time. Still, this hurts in a very acute way, especially since that time in Rochester and WDKX in particular holds such a huge, pivotal place in my life. I would NOT be here – professionally or personally – without the people who occupied those DKX walls. Period. That’s the truth.
To make this news worse, not only does this come on my husband’s birthday (what was supposed to be the subject of today’s blog), but it comes the Monday after spending my Friday in Alabama for a quick flight in and out of Birmingham on the same day to bury my aunt Renée, my closest cousin Eboné’s mother, who died far too young as well.
You want to talk about voices? Renée’s voice was that of a quintessential Southern woman… Like the thickest of honey. Growing up, when she would say my name (“Liz” back then and while I was reporting as well, actually), it was more like, “Leeeehhzzz” and I loved it. Anyone who could make a one syllable name sound important enough to drag it out for three instead, was more than ok in my book. She doted on my cousin Eboné in the sweetest of ways and took so much pride in seeing her become the amazing mother she did. Her love of my uncle was palpable and their commitment to each other over decades was unmatched. Our family won’t be the same without her and it’s a new normal I don’t think any of us are ready for.
So… There you have it. One of the grayest of days. Death… And then more death. So how the freak do we make this a “great day?”
By speaking LIFE into people!
By crying it out and feeling the pain, but swimming through it, not drowning in it.
By taking the emotions as they come, but welcoming momentary distractions that bring in humor or unrelated observations of awe.
By sitting still and enjoying nature, the breath in our lungs.
By being a friend… Always.
Forget tomorrow: TODAY IS NOT PROMISED. This ish could all be over in a matter of moments. What have you done to change your circle and your world for the better, your ‘family’ for the stronger? If you can’t think of anything, it’s time to get to work… And it’s time to get to work now.
I’ve had a commitment in my heart for a year and a half now, one that I finally spoke into existence this weekend. The minute I did, I was filled with elation, purpose, excitement, and a weight lifted off my shoulders – and this at the BEGINNING when I should be scared and frightened and nervous about the road ahead because it’s so big. Nope. And the news today? Tony’s passing? It’s just confirmation that there is NO time to waste. He didn’t. I won’t either.
If you have something on your heart to act on, I encourage you to get over any fear, any doubt, any worry, and just act. The hardest part is starting and/or outwardly expressing your intention. You know when you have waited long enough and you know when even legitimate excuses are not strong enough to give you pause anymore.
You can be great… IF you allow yourself. I’m ready to be great and I am so thankful for the examples that the people who have passed before me have left.
R.I.P. Tony Boler
R.I.P. Aunt Renee