I have had to say goodbye to my friend Richard, who passed away recently. He was 86, 30 years my senior. And of all the people I’ve known in my life, Richard has held a special place that was all his own.
I met Richard when I was in my 20s and on the speaking circuit for the first time. I was to speak to a professional audience in California at the annual meeting of a large association. The folks who headed the organization knew Richard well and asked him to sit in on my program, check me out, and report back to them what he saw. Richard gave me rave reviews, which helped to boost my career at that tender moment. He then reached out to me after the conference.
At first, I was suspicious of Richard and had my guard up. Back then, I was accustomed to men coming on to me. I thought he was just another guy whose wife didn’t understand him who looking for some fun. But quickly, I could see that he had something entirely different in mind. He wanted to encourage, support, and befriend me – and that’s all. And he did the day we met and for the next 30 years.
I was one of many lucky recipients to receive Richard’s “clipping service”. He loved to read articles, clip them, and pop them in the mail with a typewritten note attached. One of those clippings, from the early 90s, was an article Richard had read about a new profession called “coaching”. His note said it was a profession that was tailor-made for me. At the time I didn’t pay too much attention. But years later, it turns out that Richard was right.
Over the years, Richard sent me crates of oranges at holiday time; articles about investments; newsy letters about his model train club, biking trips, and family; a beautiful wooden rolling pin that he made for me in his workshop; and pop-up holiday greeting cards that decorated our home every December. And every year, we sent each other birthday cards on our mutual birthday, February 7.
I’ve never quite understood what I had done to deserve Richard’s generosity, support, and friendship these many years. But I am grateful nonetheless. He has made a lasting difference in my life and my friendship with him is one of my treasures. I will miss him.