Sometimes life just pushes the art aside...
Late on Friday afternoon I received a message that an old high school friend (Kathy) had tagged me in a photo on Facebook. About 4:00 PM, I signed on to Facebook to take a look at the photo. The caption on the photo read, "Richard and Lezlei George Washington Preparatory High, Watisishumbas '72 30 Year Reunion. RIP our brother and friend." That is how I found out that my friend of over 40 years had lost his battle with liver cancer. He had passed away early Wednesday morning. Questions flooded my brain! What had happened? Had his prognosis changed? Why wasn't I contacted BEFORE he took his last breath. I wanted to be there. I wanted to make sure he had everything he needed. I wanted to hold his hand. I wanted to tell him I loved him one last time.
His brother's Facebook page contained the details of his funeral arrangements - the next morning at 8:00 AM in Oakland, CA. I called the funeral home to confirm the arrangements. Fortunately, I was able to get a flight into San Francisco on Friday night. I had only enough time to throw a few items in a bag and head for the airport. I had to change planes in Phoenix, so I carried my bag on for fear the airline might lose it and leave me to attend the funeral in my jogging outfit (which I would have done if I had to).
So Saturday, March 26, 2011 I attended the funeral and said goodbye to my friend, Richard Lafayette.
I had called and text him several times over the last 3 weeks with no response. So I contacted his brother (a busy attorney) who promised to call. When he offered to call rather than respond with Richard's condition, I feared things may not have been going well - my last call was to his brother's office (I can be bold when I need to) on Wednesday to leave a message with his secretary. My friend was already gone and I didn't know it.
We first met in 1969 at George Washington High School in Los Angeles, CA, where we both attended. After graduating, Richard was one of the few that I have maintained a friendship with from high school. We would lose contact from time to time over the years - but he would always find me and we would renew the friendship as if we had never been apart.
I missed a call from him about 8 months ago. As I lay down to go to sleep, I thought to text him to ask if he was OK...and the phone rang and he said, "Lezlei, this has been the worst day in my entire life.". He went on to explain that his wife of 39 years had died that day unexpectedly. So we encouraged each other not knowing that there were still some difficult days ahead.
Another call only a few months ago to tell me he had been diagnosed with liver cancer. He explained the treatment plan to me in detail and I gave him my list of things he had to do. At one point he stopped me and said, "Lezlei, I have family, friends and people who care about me here in Oakland - I'm not by myself." There was silence on the phone for a moment - I had to process that - he had other friends besides me...smiles. But that is the kind of friend he was - he always made me feel so special and "as if" I was the only friend. His services were evidence of the many family, friends and co-workers who loved him - just like me. As he took his last breath, he was surrounded by his family from Dallas and two sons and the assurances of a life well lived.
He visited Dallas the end of last year and I was able to spend a couple of hours with him and drove him to the airport for his trip home. I am so thankful for that time. I am eternally grateful for the many years of wonderful friendship. I am trusting God that we got everything out of it that we should have.
Even though I wasn't there - I know he knew that I loved him because I told him often enough- we would end most conversations with that reminder, "I love you".
Isn't that smile infectious! I love you, Richard and I will miss you forever...