Richard – that’s 2 in 3 days, dammit!

I can’t believe this. It’s so surreal and strange to me, and the only word to describe it is “fuck”. First, Robinson Loder dies of a heart failure on Thursday at work, and then Richard, the husband of my best friend Janna, a.k.a. The Cheerleader, dies in a car wreck late Saturday night. I keep thinking it’s some cruel-and-late April Fool’s joke, but it’s not. I really can’t quite believe it, and I’m having very little luck keeping it together.

I met Richard in on September 4, 2004 in Tucson, Arizona. He was at the local Army base getting training, and The Cheerleader happened to be visiting him there the same time I was in Phoenix to visit other friends, so I drove down to have dinner and meet the new man in her life. She finally met someone who treated her like the goddess she is, and who seemed to have his shit together. He still had to pass the Inspection by the Friends, which as you all know is the hardest thing for any potential mate.

He not only passed, he surpassed everything. Richard was, honestly, the most charming and wonderful man you could imagine.

Eventually they got married, and while Richard was still deployed to Iraq, and I was still living at The Cheerleader’s house, he became part of my family. When he returned from the war we had a few times of stress, and things weren’t perfect, but they never got worse. It takes time to readjust to civilian life after a year in a warzone, but he’d done it. It was very amazing to see the two of them together.

During the readjustment period, which is also when I moved out of their house, it was very telling to find out that Richard was worried that my opinion of him had soured. He wanted to make sure that I approved of him and liked him and didn’t feel that he was in some way wrong. I’ve never had any doubts about him, and I’ve never been so honored in my life as when I found out that my opinion meant so much to him. He honored all of us with his service in Iraq, as he was the first and perhaps only person who could and did make some semblance of sense out of that mess. He was loving, kind, careful and strong, and in many ways the best you can ask of any person to be.

Richard and Janna the night I met him, Tucson, AZ, 9.4.04The picture here is one I took the night that I met Richard. I remember it well enough to say I knew that they’d be married soon, and that it was a good thing for both of them. I knew then that he was a wonderful guy, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better for my best friend’s husband.

I can’t believe he’s gone. I can’t quite believe that this week has happened.

Richard, I know you’re looking over us and will be watching to keep her safe. I didn’t tell you enough how much you meant to me, and how much I love you – for your strength, your courage, your honor, your humor and your love for Janna and everyone you surrounded yourself with. You are the best, my friend, and you will be remembered that way by all of us. But fuck, you shouldn’t be a memory, you should still be here. Safe journeys, my friend.