I’m sad. And I’m mad. Who knew I would become so sad and angry at the passing of a friend that I hadn’t seen in nine years.
I met Richard almost thirty years ago. I was young and fresh out of high school. On weekends, my friends and I could be found cruising Main Street or hanging out in the Advance parking lot. That was what we did in the name of fun in Waynesboro. Along about that time, a tiny pub opened up in the middle of town. Its name was Mad Anthony’s and boy, did I have some mad fun in that place on weekends. That was where I met Richard and the rest of the guys in the band First Offense. It was 1982 and the beginning of an era of big bands, big hair and big fun.
There was just something magical about bands and rock-n-roll music in those days, and while some would argue that the magic stemmed from too much drinking and partying, we would tell you that it was just something about the music that spoke to everything we felt and believed about the world. I couldn’t help but to get caught up in the sheer joy that exuded whenever First Offense played in front of a crowd. I loved being with and watching those guys perform, especially Richard, whose face contorted whenever he and his guitar became as one. Afterwards, we would all pile into Richard’s and my best friend Cheryl’s house to hang out all night, too high from happiness and harmonies to even think about going home to bed.
While most people my age were graduating from college and settling down, my friends and I spent a good part of the 1980s living for the weekends, just hanging out and having fun. Band members and band names would come and go, but the main core of us continued to rock on through good times and bad, cementing a kind of friendship that would last a lifetime and see us through many travails.
I finally settled down in the late 80s, getting married and giving birth to my first son. Richard did the same, although unfortunately the early 90s saw both of us divorced already. Maybe that was due in part because neither of us had learned how to let go of the past. Or maybe it was due in part to the dark shadows that resided inside each of us.. I lived as a single mother throughout the 90s, so I kind of fell out of touch with Richard and his band cronies. They were some rough years for me, and they evidently were rough for him as well. I’m not sure what happened to him in the years we were apart, but when we eventually hooked up again in the late 90s, a large part of Richard was gone, both emotionally and physically.
We met up again at a time when I had just lost my son to my ex-husband and his new family. I was so filled with grief that breathing each moment took more strength than I had to give. Richard, having always possessed a very dry wit and sharp tongue, and who had the ability to use his tongue as a rapier in order to cut through to the crux of any matter in an instant, used his skill with words and humor to prop me up during this phase of our friendship. He refused to allow either of us to succumb to despair. His friendship became my lifeline, as music was his, and although both of us were lost and struggling in those days, for two years we did it together.
In 2001, I met my husband Eddie and together he and I dedicated our lives to serving the Lord. I exchanged my love for rock-n-roll music for Christian contemporary worship. With the Lord’s help, I finally put the dark decade of the 90s behind me and moved on. That time, as well as those friends, I’m sad to say, became a distant memory as I forged ahead with a whole new life in Christ. I had a new life, a new son and an appreciation for that life that only those who had lost it once can possess. I so effectively put my past behind me that I didn’t know that several miles away, Richard was literally losing his life. And but for the grace of God, that could have been me, too.
So now I am mad and sad. Sad at the loss of such a vibrant, intelligent, talented man and musician at the young age of 52. Angry because I wasn’t able to see him before he left, to thank him for the friendship that I never bothered to thank him for before. I am angry at myself because by God’s grace and mercy I have been saved and will live in Glory one day but I never bothered to find out if Richard knew the Lord or not. I am angry at myself for waiting until after his passing to consider the thought that I should have shared the joy that Christ has restored to my life and could have restored to his.
My prayer is that Richard cried out to Jesus before he left this earth and that right this minute his face is contorting with joy as he becomes one with his electric guitar in God’s band in Glory.
Surely they may forget,
Yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of
Your walls are continually before me. Isaiah 49: 15b-16