This morning I received a frantic call from the daughter of my friend, informing me that her father had just died unexpectedly of a masive heart attack. His name was Richie Stokes.
I had known Richie for over forty years. As a matter of fact, he and his wife MaryAnn, accompanied my wife, Charlotte and me on our honeymoon some thirty-eight years ago. He and MaryAnn had never been on a honeymoon themselves and it seemed natural and comfortable for them to go to Bemuda with us. They were an easy going couple that were game for anything.
MaryAnn, herself, had passed away a number of years ago. She had a rare genetic disorder that attacked her liver. She was one of the first in the country to get a liver transplant which only gave her a few extra years of life. She was one of the most extradinary people I ever met. Her passing left a void in the lives of Charlotte and myself.
After her death, Richie picked up th pieces as best he could, living a simple and honest life. As years passed, I did not see Richie as much as I could. Lives take different paths, filled with clutter and busyness. As a matter of fact, I was thinking of Richie this morning, how I needed to call him and invite him out to our all too infrequent luncheon get togethers. The opportunity never presented itself.
Richie, instead leaves many memories that were all too often taken for granted. In our lives, many people come and go. Through those encounters, lessons can be learned, if we can slow down enough to see and recognize them. Richie was one such person who taught by example.
Richie was a man who was authentic and who lived life genuinely appreciating the simple and good things that life had to offer. Though he was not free of life’s cruel occurances, he learned to make lemonade out of lemons. He was able to laugh and poke fun at many of the things that would get most people down. He was a friend who was there if you needed help no matter what. Regardless, that you may not have seen him for awhile, you were conforted in knowing that he was only a telephone call away.
As mentioned, Richie was not exempt from the storms of life. Yet through it all, he never came across victimized, entitled or blaming of others. He took full responsibility for decisions he had made in his life while being non-judgemental of others who did not. He never pretended to be something he was not and was comfortable in his own skin, warts and all.
Richie, I will think about you often and hopefully learn and implement the lessons you taught along the way. I look forward to seeing you and MaryAnn on the other side.