A good friend of our was buried this week. I guess it's a sign of our ages that this is happening more often than we would like.
We had known Richard less than five years, but we had loved him and will miss him. He was trusting Christ as his Savior, though, so we know we will see him again when our time comes to leave this world.
We met Rich on the occasion of his marriage to our good friend, Pat. Both Rich and Pat had been widowed, Rich after 53 years of marriage and Pat after nearly 50 years. They met at church and quickly fell in love. Seeing no reason to waste precious time, they were married about six weeks after their first date.
Rich was an interesting guy to talk to. He had spent years as a long-haul truck driver. One night during those years, he stopped at a party store in Romulus, Michigan, to make some small purchase. While he was there, the store was robbed. Two armed bandits entered the store shortly after midnight and told the owner and the two customers: "This is a holdup. Hit the floor. We'll kill anyone who won't listen."
The store owner grabbed a gun that he kept hidden under the counter and began shooting. He was critically wounded almost immediately, with bullet wounds to the right chest and lower abdomen; but he continued to exchange fire. The other customer was also wounded. One of the bandits emptied his gun and threw it on the floor, as the other bandit fled. The store owner reached for a concealed shotgun and tossed it to Rich, who used it to hold the bandit who remained in the store. The bandit begged Rich to let him go because he had stopped the other guy from shooting Rich. But Rich continued to hold the shotgun on him.
After it was over, and the police had arrived, Rich discovered that the shotgun wasn't even loaded!
One of Rich's two sons was the victim of a murder in Grand Rapids, Michigan several years ago. Danny was a taxi driver and shared a cab with a college student that was working part-time on a different shift. On his shift, the college student had picked up two men who were high on drugs. Unable to put up with their behavior, he pulled over and made them get out.
Later, on Danny's shift, the same guys called for a cab and asked for the same cab number. Danny was the same size as the college student, and they both wore the same company cap. The guys who had been booted out of the cab by the college student shot Danny to death, apparently believing he was the same cab driver they'd had before. They were captured and tried and sent to prison. But Danny's death left a pain in the hearts of his family that never fully healed.
Rich had a favorite saying, which he would whip out whenever anyone younger than he would complain about aches and pains or failing memories. "It gets worse," he would say, with the authority of one speaking from experience.
His death followed a long illness, during which he eventually lost almost all ability to participate in his own care. Pat became his full-time caregiver, determined to keep him at home, as Rich wished.
Although Rich's physical abilities decreased during his illness, his mind and quick wit stayed sharp. One Sunday, before it became too difficult for Rich to attend church, he told his church family that he had been taking about eight pills a day. Recently, his doctor had put him on another pill, then gave him an anti-depressant, too. Rich said, "That way, if the other pills don't work, I won't care."
Music was one of the great loves of Rich's life. He sang and played guitar with a gospel band at church. Whenever his brother would visit from Virginia, they would spend an evening picking and singing together. Rich and Pat got into the habit of singing together each evening in their apartment, with Rich playing the accompaniment on his guitar. So, when his fingers stiffened up about three years ago, all part of the illness that afflicted him, and he lost the ability to play the guitar, it was a great loss for everyone.
One day, about a year and a half ago, Pat left Rich resting in his recliner, alone in the apartment, while she ran an errand. From where he sat, Rich could see out the front window and saw a car turn into their driveway. Moments later, the doorbell rang. It was difficult for Rich to get out of the chair and to the door, and he wasn't dressed to greet a guest anyway. So he stayed seated in his recliner.
Soon an elderly woman started pounding on the front window...then back to the door, ringing the doorbell and even kicking the door. Rich tried unsuccessfully to reach Pat on her cell phone, hoping that she might be able to come home and see what the lady wanted. After listening to the relentless pounding for 15 minutes or so, Rich finally decided, "What you see is what you get;" and he opened the door.
The woman demanded to know where "Flora" was and wouldn't believe Rich that there was no Flora there. He finally managed to explain to her that there was an identical apartment complex next to the one she was in and that there was another apartment with the same number in that complex and maybe Flora could be found there. He said later that he should have added, "It gets worse."
Before they married, Pat lived in a farmhouse in the country and had always been one to bustle about when doing her housework. When they married and moved into Rich's apartment, Pat made an effort to slow down and work more quietly so as not to disturb the resident of the neighboring apartment. Recently, when a weakening Rich was spending the day in bed, Pat set about cleaning up the kitchen. When she returned to the bedroom, Rich told her he had decided on a name for her kitchen: "Bang-le-dish."
These stories give only a small glimpse of the man that Rich was. They show a little of the sorrow that touched his life, a little of the courage, and a little of the humor. He was a fun guy. I wish we'd known him longer. But we'll meet again. And then there will be all eternity to share with him.