September 18, 2014
His name is Richard, and he is my neighbor. We met about 2 years ago, when David, Ben, Grace and I moved into our home in Mt. Washington. We would often see Richard and his sweet dog, Dylan, walking in our community. Dylan loved to bound up to each of us in joyful greeting. He also loved to lie at his master’s feet, while Richard sat in front of their home, reading the paper or simply soaking in the sunlight, his face turned upwards with his eyes closed, two of God’s creatures resting side-by-side in perfect bliss.
A few months after we moved into the neighborhood, Richard was diagnosed with cancer. He thought the pain he was experiencing might have been a broken rib. It turned out, he was wrong. I’ve never asked him his age, but I believe Richard is not much older than me.
Richard came over for tea one afternoon. We talked about life and about his life as a lawyer. We talked about how difficult it is for people to be around someone who is dying from cancer. What to say? What not to say? How to simply be and to listen? A non-practicing Jew who is open-minded to different spiritual paths, he shared with me an incredible recent experience he had had of Jesus. Still affected by this encounter, he was trying to make some sense of it all. What did it mean? Who is Jesus, at least for him, anyway?
Richard said goodbye to our neighborhood last month and moved into Gilchrist, which he now considers to be his new home. Our visits and chats have become somewhat more frequent. He has set up a bar in his room so friends and family can enjoy being together and being with him, during Happy Hour; he figured, why wait until his death to have a wake, to celebrate his life? I have watched him savor spoon after spoon of vanilla ice cream, with that same in-the-moment-bliss of soaking in the sun.
My most recent visit with Richard was yesterday. He was sitting in the Gilchrist lobby, enjoying the company of yet another friend – a former client – who had come by to spend time with him. Richard told me he has absolutely no worry. No anxiety. No care but to simply be present, in the moment, with the person in front of him. He is, he told me, free.
I believe him.