It is hard to imagine that it has been three years since I lost one of my childhood best friends. If you knew me from the ages of eleven through twenty, you also knew Richard, because we were pretty much inseparable. Three years ago Richard passed away from a quick bout with cancer and luckily a lot of his friends and family were there with him. I wrote this speech to read at his funeral.
It is my hope that by sharing it now that people that knew Richard will spend time this week remembering your special times with him. If you did not know him, he was a great guy, and hopefully this will get you to think about the special times you had with your childhood best friends.
As I sat down to write this I was really worried that it was going to be hard to get through up here. Then I thought about how Richard would have punched me hard in the arm if I did not make it through, so I plan to get through it all.
Thanks to everyone that is here (First Baptist was jam-packed for Richard’s funeral), it is a true tribute to how great of a guy Richard was. I think everyone that was there with Richard this past Thursday in the hospital would agree on a couple things. He was truly loved by everyone in the room. He passed on in a very peaceful manner. And everyone could see just how strong the Bagnal family really is. Mr. and Mrs. Bagnal, and Mara, I am truly sorry for your loss.
The first time I met Richard was at Striker’s soccer tryouts in 5th grade, and we became instant friends, where there were probably few days over the next 7 or 8 years that we didn’t talk.
There were a couple things about Richard that drove me crazy though. On Thursday, there was talk in the hospital room that three of his grandparents would be waiting for him in heaven. This is completely true, and I know he is there with them now. I was just hoping that they realized that they better be patient for a couple hours after his time, because I guarantee that somewhere on his way, he stopped to get ready. And when Richard got ready, it was quite an ordeal, and anyone that knows him well knows that you had to give him a good two hours. I am pretty sure that I spent half of my high school life waiting on Richard to get ready.
The other thing that drove me crazy was that Richard was an absolute ladies man. When our friends were trading baseball cards or playing his Nintendo in 6th grade, Richard was talking about his 8th grade girlfriends. From then on, it didn’t matter if the girls were our age, younger, older, or taller, which was typically the case for him, girls always migrated to him. It was like the show “How I met your mother.” I was the guy that kept trying to figure out a way to talk to girls, and Richard was like Barney in the show. He would say a couple words and they would be all about him. Some people would say this was jealousy on my part, and those people would be right. I did finally get extremely lucky and marry a great woman, and Richard was there as one of my top fans.
There are countless stories I remember vividly about growing up with Richard. The time in middle school where we stuck an egg in the exhaust pipe of a van across the street from the Bagnals, because we thought it was funny. As soon as the egg went in, we both began to freak out and try to get the egg back out. That whole night, we stayed up in the twin beds in his room, worried that whenever the owner turned the van on that the van would explode.
We both entered high school as five foot and 100 pound scrawny kids, with matching nineties mullets. Our soccer shirts on the Reynolds soccer team that freshmen year went all the way down to our wrists, and they were short-sleeved. We thought we were a lot cooler than we really were like when Richard picked me up from an exam on his mo-ped. We actually drove it through the parking lots, tried to go down the steep hill towards the children’s home and eventually wrecked the bike in some wet leaves.
The next story, I got cleared from Mara, but I still want to apologize to my mom and Vana. The statue of limitation is way passed though, and I blame it on peer pressure. On a weekday night of our sophomore year, when I am pretty sure our parents both thought we were at Young Life, but we decided it was time to go on an adventure to steal our first street sign. There are a couple key factors we should have followed when stealing this sign, mainly to be quick and not draw attention to ourselves. For some reason we decided to steal a Club Park Rd. sign, which just so happened to be right under a bright street light with several houses right near it. This was also when they had just made the street signs bigger, higher, and more secure. We parked Richard’s Explorer down the street. Since we were so short, we had serious trouble getting up to the top of the street signs. We began to either boost each other up, or shimmy up the pole to get up so we could hang on. Another problem was that we didn’t weigh anything, so we were having problems getting it loose. We would take turns hanging and yanking on one side of the sign. Eventually, we figured out how to both get up there, and we were each on our own side pulling down on the sign with all of our might. After a good twenty minutes, the sign finally fell to the ground with us crashing down with it and with cut-up hands. We didn’t care, we were so excited that we finally got it down through our perserverance. As we sprinted to the car carrying that sign, we felt like we were carrying a Super Bowl trophy. The funny thing is that since we were out there for so long, there was really no point to sprint. There were probably people inside their houses watching us, too hysterical at how horrible we were at getting that sign to worry about calling the police or coming out to yell at us.
I eventually outgrew Richard in height, but I always looked up to him. He was a giant in many ways. He had a giant heart and truly cared about me and all his friends. The last texting conversation I had with him was on April 12, 2013. He wrote:
“I heard the stork delivered another into your arms. That is awesome brother! Please tell all of the folks hello and a big congratulations to Katie and McKinley, and Hudson I guess. I’m truly happy for y’all. I honestly love you all.”
My son, Hudson, never got to meet Richard. A lot of the stories I have to tell about Richard aren’t the type a dad tells his daughter, but they are great for a dad to tell his son. After I get done telling Hudson stories about Richard, I honestly believe that he is going to imagine Richard as a giant.
If my children, Hudson and McKinley, can go through life with a heart like Richard’s, I will be a very proud father. I will always remember Richard as my best childhood friend, and just like all of you, I will never forget him. Richard, from the bottom of my heart, thanks for being such a great part of my life!