“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
I don’t ordinarily put off a post for two months, but in the case of my extended trip to DC last December, I needed to process for a while. The conference that got me there was fine, but the days leading up to it were slightly traumatic because the last time I saw Ricky Hayes he was alive and laughing. We – Ricky, Rick Warfield (pictured here), and I – had a nice dinner and talked for hours, sprinkled with laughter throughout. It was a beautiful moment. This time, I could only see his name etched in stone. I couldn’t even touch it because it was at the very top of the 10′ foot columbarium. No hugs. No laughter. Just silence. I was sad to my core just as I’d been when my other near-brother Mark Collinsworth died. If you’re fortunate as an only child, like Ricky and I were, you form long-term relationships with certain people can, and often do, fill the vacant role of brother or sister. These friendships transcend the concept of “friend” and can take on characteristics more akin to siblings. My most formative years were spent with Ricky and Mark in this capacity. They were brothers to me in every way. Period. As an adult, I could never be there to help Rick care for Ricky through the many times he got sick or was hospitalized. Even when I was told that something had gone terribly wrong with Ricky’s heart and he was no longer conscious I couldn’t be there. Instead, a few weeks later, I had to say my goodbyes over the phone. That’s not how either of us thought our time together would come to a close, but thanks to Rick, at least I had that much. So, nearly a year to the day after Ricky’s death, I found myself craning my neck to stare at his name on a symmetric stone square in the dim light of Sunday; Rick Warfield’s grief as palpable as if the passing just happened. I’m sorry Ricky had to go so soon. I’m not sorry he no longer suffers. This strange, complex human condition: sometimes you just need to sit with it a while and just be.