My friend Richard was buried yesterday. He had been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer back at the end of February. He passed on July 1st.
I met Richard back in 2011 when he took his son Nick and his other Webelos to check out Troop 4. Richard struck me as no-nonsense, and a little gruff as he sized me up; we hit it off and he jumped right in and was right there working knots with the boys. A few months later Nick and Richard joined our troop.
Richard was absolutely devoted to Nick. He and Nick went camping at the beach and he taught the boys first aid; we went camping in the local mountains, and he helped the boys make the most shocking pagan war flag, it was awesome. Richard often told me how excited he was about Nicks growing confidence and independence and sense of self empowerment. Richard helped out everywhere and the boys and the adults loved him. He was salt of the earth. He taught cooking and pulled my introverted son into it; they shared a love for Penzey’s spices. Richard gave us his chile verde recipe.
At Bandido a couple years ago Richard helped me out with a climbing program. He was off belaying other boys while I taught Nick how to rappel. Richard was so proud of Nick for taking that on. He wrote me later that he “could see a sense of pride.... No false bravado from him....Bravery is accepting that you are afraid, and pushing forward in spite of that. One of the best emotions in life is laughing through tears...:. Or grinning while physically shaking .... Good stuff !!” We went out on our own and climbed and rappelled at Horseflats; Richard belayed me while I tackled the crack at Romeo Void over and over until I got it. I was pretty scared on the crux of that little climb but Richard had me on belay until I got it. Richard loved all this so much he got his climbing instructor card. He took Nick out on his final instructor’s exam - where Nick got to show off some ‘special’ techniques on a 70 foot rappel! Richard was beyond proud of Nick for how he handled this; he told me that most of the adults had bowed out (it was very high “pucker factor”). The last time we climbed was after the Angeles Crest 100 last year (where Richard crewed me, along with my wife, brother, and a couple of other close friends) when Nick and Richard and I went up to practice anchors and rappel rescue at Horseflats. We looked forward to climbing and exploring more up there. We wanted to scope out the scary 80- foot Toprope wall, but we never got the chance.
I trusted Richard and that trust extended from the rock into some hairy stuff in the real world. He was real. We tried to be on our best behavior around the scouts and I for one had to work hard to keep my language clean. But I loved the fact that when we were together without the boys his language could sometimes blister paint -- I felt like I could breath around him. Richard became my close friend and confidant. When I got upset at people places or things, he would just listen, wouldn’t judge, but would tell me that he wasn’t going to put any bullets in my chamber.
About these adventures, Richard once wrote to me, “We all have a ‘golden window’ in life sometimes, to do things we haven't done before, and may not be able to do again in the future. This is one of those opportunities for me…” I read those words now and they seem prophetic and leave me speechless. His time was too short and I miss him.