It was the day after the Super Bowl in 2004. The Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers 32-29. It was mid morning and I was ready to head to school. This was after my career as a football player at BYU ended due to knee problems and I was still trying to stay in school and get my Computer Science degree. Meagan had a shift the night before at Ruby River steakhouse and we both stayed up late which was common for us as we had no kids at this point in our marriage. We would stay up way late and get up late. I remember we would get frustrated when our siblings would call us at 9am with kids yelling in the background and we would think to ourselves, “man, so glad we don’t have to wake up with yelling kids so early”! Man have times changed!
Anyways, it was February 2, 2004, a day I’ll never forget. I can’t remember the exact time but it was in the morning and I was preparing to head to school for a late morning class. I was in the hallway of our condo in Orem Utah on 1030 S Orem Blvd #24. Funny how I still have that memorized…I guess not, we lived there for a while. A phone call came to my cell phone. The caller ID said it was my parents. I remember thinking to myself, “man I can’t pick up otherwise I’m going to talk for far too long and be late for my class”. It was customary for my dad to have what Kent affectionately described as “diarrhea of the mouth”. I reluctantly picked up the phone. It was Jim. Strange that he would call me on my parents phone. His voice was shaken. For those who don’t know Jim he’s a big strong man, much like the rest of us Griffith boys. He’s hard headed (he won’t admit it), strong willed, and not easily shaken. So it surprised me to hear him so shaken up. I said “hello”, and he said “Matt, Kent is dead”, I said “what?”, he said “Kent died”. I could hear my mother in the background crying. I collapsed to my knees as my body gave out on me, and began to sob, “what? no! no! no!”. He then handed the phone to my mother who described what had happened. As we were talking I couldn’t help but recollect on the fun times Kent and I had together and the fun times we would not be able to have together. I truly felt we had an unbreakable bond that was broken that day, not by my choice, not at all.
The unbreakable bond I speak of is the bond that brothers have and create over a long period of time. Now of course this is not all brothers but for me, Kent, Dave, and Jim I felt this bond, this relationship. Kent was a great example for Dave, Jim and me to follow. He set the tone for how to grow up, albeit sometimes against his own will in order to honor our father and mother. Kent always honored and respected my parents. My dad gave him guidance on career path, sports, and many other things. At times Kent was reluctant and sometimes regretful for the decisions he made, but in the end he was glad he honored his parents. That’s something that has always stuck with me about Kent.
Kent set the tone for how to grow up, sure he made mistakes and was so far from a perfect life that it was funny, from flicking putty in wood shop to breaking perfectly good chairs. One of the famous Kent stories (and there are many) was when he was caught flicking putty in wood shop at Meeker Junior High which ended up in Kent getting a beat down from my dad (it turned out that Kent wasn’t the one flicking putty), a funny story that can only be told so eloquently by Kent, no one else could tell it like he did and bring out so much laughter.
Kent was a great student, a great athlete who went on to earn a scholarship playing football at BYU. He served an honorable LDS mission in Germany, and married a beautiful woman in the Salt Lake Temple. He has four beautiful children. From my perspective he had achieved everything, was a great son (though that depends on what day you ask my parents ), a great husband and father. He was a great storyteller, always had a joke or something funny to tell. Loved to tease. There are so many stories and great memories I have of Kent. I could go on for days.
Growing up in a house of 4 boys that were all big enough to be WWF heavyweight champions! We didn’t get a long most of the time, in fact we beat the hell out of each other quite often, whether it was the “stand up, sit down” “game” or on the sport court in the backyard arguing and fighting. We would fight (brotherly love fight) to the point of my mother going through at least 15 telephones, the ones that would hang on the wall in the kitchen and had a long swirly cord, she would threaten to call our dad if we wouldn’t stop fighting. She’d pick up the phone and one of us (whomever was in trouble) would come over and place our hand over the base to hang up the phone, my mother would then proceed to pound our hands with the other end of the phone, to the point of breaking ~15 phones over our knuckles.
All four of us boys have been close and have also grown apart at different points in our life, whether it’s because we needed space or were too busy with our children, work, church, or whatever. However, there isn’t anything that would prevent me from helping my brothers out if they needed it. Kent needed us to all come together as a family when he passed away and help his wife and children and comfort them. One of the things I look forward to is giving Taelor a big hug when Meag and I go to Utah to visit the family. I can’t help but think that my hugs are like Kent’s and I enjoy giving her that comfort. Maybe some day Jim or Dave or myself will need help in some way and I know for a fact that any one of us will swiftly come to the aid of each other. That is brotherhood, that is what a band of brothers is all about.