I went to the wake yesterday. I knew it would be difficult. But I feel almost like I've been trained to "do" wakes, I've had to go to so many of them, and I wanted to say goodbye to Rich.
But this one was REALLY hard. Hard because he looked - well, he looked even younger than his 22 years.
And he looked, well, he looked like Rich. And that made it that much harder yet. He had that little stubble going on, that little smirk on his lips, his hair spiked up in disarray. He was wearing a white t-shirt, just showing under the unbuttoned top button of his black and grey and white striped dress shirt. I knelt there by the casket, just waiting to see him take a breath. I couldn't believe he was gone.
I spent several minutes talking with his mom, who I'd never met before. Something unrelated to his health happened while he was in the hospital that has her and the rest of the family reeling, something I'm not at liberty to discuss here, but after she talked about that and got it off her chest, she talked about Rich. How she knew that that situation I referred to very vaguely back there happened because he would give anyone the shirt off his back. She knew what a genuinely nice person her son was. She works in a laundry. Rich would pop in and visit with her and if he saw someone struggling with a large load of laundry, either coming into or out of the building, he'd run to help them with it. My sister said he always offered to take out the garbage, and 7 out of 10 times she'd have to tell him, "Rich, it's not anywhere near full yet!"
His birthday was August 30th. The same day as my nephew's, his former best friend's. (My nephew had a bit of an issue with his sister dating his friend and they were a bit estranged - well, J was estranged from Rich. Rich was still J's friend!) My sister's boyfriend's son's birthday is the same day, too - we all celebrated the boys' three birthdays together this past August. I even got Rich and J almost matching T-shirts!
We couldn't have picked a better 1st serious boyfriend for A. No fake I.D.s, no drinking or drugs, a heart of gold... His mom said Rich was really, really, really serious about A. Like possible future serious. But college for A got in the way - as it should, don't get the wrong idea. A left for college and as I predicted, she started to pull away from Rich. But they were still friendly enough to be texting the week before Rich died. I know she's having a real hard time with this, as you'd expect. It's horrible when someone dies who's your peer, your age, and even worse, a close friend. And when you're young, you don't have much experience with loss. Most of the time, anyway...
Rich, you were in my life for a relatively short period of time, but you will always be remembered.