Rich, a good friend of Eric and me, passed away from brain cancer this past Saturday. It's been really hard to accept that it happened, even though he has been sick for several months. Rich has always been an incredibly warm, vibrant, funny, and genuine person. He was one of those people who you could just be with and feel more relaxed and content. He had the best sense of humor of anybody I know and was one of the best huggers. He made people truly happy.
I know that, as he began to realize that treatment was not going to work, Rich questioned whether he had accomplished as much as he could in his life. I hope he knew how incredibly proud we all were to have him as a friend and how much his just being there enriched our lives. I hope he recognized how just the day-to-day triumphs he experienced--leaving everything he knew to move to San Diego on his own, learning to surf, traveling to Costa Rica--were so special and so meaningful.
I've been friends with Rich since my freshman year of college, ten years, and it was amazing to see how far he came and how much he grew in that time. His personality mellowed and matured, his humor became even more fine-tuned and witty than it ever had been before, and he took risks that, I think, helped him see his strength. He was a wonderful friend and an amazing person. I know that, as much as I miss him now, I'm only going to miss him more over time because there are going to be so many instances where I will have wanted him there to share with me.
This past July, Rich was a groomsman in Eric and my wedding. Rich introduced Eric and I in 2003 and, from the very start of our relationship, frequently said to us, "just don't make me an usher". He knew Eric and I were right for each other. At the time of the wedding, Rich had already undergone some treatment for his cancer, but Eric and I had no idea how serious his condition was. I think that's how Rich wanted it to be. He wanted us to be happy, and we were. We were so proud to have our friend by our side, to hear him give a toast during the reception. It was a perfect day and Rich made it all possible for us. Looking at the wedding pictures now, I love seeing the huge smile on Rich's face in every single shot--he was so pleased that two people he had played matchmaker for, two of his close friends, had ended up together.
From the time of the wedding, Rich's health gradually declined. He began to lose his eyesight, his sense of balance and, eventually, his clarity of thought. Through it all, though, Rich maintained his wit and charm and strength. He took advantage of every second until his body wouldn't let him. Even on days when he had been struggling, he always perked up for a visit from Eric and me, cracked some jokes, reminisced with us about the past. The last day we saw him, the Wednesday before he died, it was so quiet and dark in the room and Rich was so different. On the way out, though, he squeezed my hand and something inside of me knew that he was saying goodbye and that, despite his health, he was the same Rich. I'm so thankful that I was there to say goodbye to him that day. I will never have another friend like Rich.
Rich's memorial service is this coming Saturday. It's the first time I've had to go to a funeral for a friend so close to me and I'm nervous. I've volunteered to say something at the service and I want to get it right. There are so many wonderful things to say that I don't know how to pick one. Or how I'm going to get it out. I think we all need that time, though, to commemorate Rich's life. As nervous as I am, in a way I'm looking forward to spending time with other people close to Rich, sharing all of our funny, lovely stories about the time we spent with him. He will truly be missed. He is already missed. I miss you, Rich. Thank you for everything you added to my life.