I think of this man, so fun and so full of life. We were playing a game in Jackson, Mississippi, while visiting the home of our beloved hero, Dr. John Perkins. Richard was all about game participation and he was stellar in his improv interpretation of a Project Runway model walk. He cracked me up!... So, when I received a text from our mutual cohort friend a few weeks back asking me what was going on with him… well, I had no clue. The last time our cohort was together as a group was our October CCDA conference in Dallas (above pic).
Like everything else it seems I learn these days, I then googled to see what was happening with Richard. And, I was immediately thrown into shock. I could not believe either the visual I saw or the words I read. This man’s wife and son were dead; and, according to authorities, he had committed suicide, alone in a parking lot off of a Texas freeway. What?!?!
This report simply did not seem like the fun-loving guy I knew. Nor the guy who ran the multi-national organization, Attack Poverty. All of our mutual justice-oriented friends thought that his work was generating some amazing results towards breaking down generational poverty. It was a battle that most in our cohort was passionate about fighting, as Jesus-following types. We all wanted to create some good in a world that left so many without any hope… How could this report possibly be true about our friend that was so brilliant and had such a loving family with a seemingly prosperous life picture?
The first day after the news report, I simply hoped that there was something I did not know. Like there was some type of a set-up or that he had been framed by an associate. That’s honestly where my brain went, as I knew that he had dealt with some tough organizational carnage over the past year. I also just wanted it to be someone else that committed murder, not my friend.
I had very carefully crafted my social media words around this horrific event to our cohort group, which another of our members suggested I communicate. Then, the following day I found out that my above brain wish was not granted. The media began to blare even more horrific news. His adult daughter had also been part of this twisted ploy and she survived… Dear God, why and how could this all happen?
I grieved over all of the news reports, yet I kept searching for some clue in the media coverage that would give me some seemingly logical explanation. We humans always seem to seek that. Yet, with this gut-wrenching scenario, I simply could not find it… and, honestly, I pilfered through anything that I saw which might give me a clue or suspected motive. I simply wanted to make some sense of all of this evil with my Westernized logic-oriented brain
It didn’t seem that any of our mutual cohort friends could make sense of this shocking news either. Our words, comments of shock and emotion were as varied as our collective group, which had journeyed together for 2 years. None of us could imagine how or why all of this happened. Though, since everyone in this group was over 40… well, most all of us had lived long enough to know that human relationships are full of surprises, good and bad. Yet, this scenario seemed an unexpected surreal quantum life entanglement with no foreseeable good to come from it.
I processed my shared-friend shock on the phone with those cohort members who were miles away, yet have stayed in deep relationship. That is always the solidarity hope of what happens when you have humans to journey “with” in like-minded community… affinities develop and you are able to reach out and process life and emotion “with” them.
Through my online research, I also found out things about our friend Richard that I did not know. I learned more of his heritage story, his beautiful wife’s story and even listened to a message that his pastor father gave on spiritual warfare. I simply needed to find and see things to help my brain process how my friend could get to a place to choose murder and suicide...
Today, I still do not have clarity. Yet, I do get that we all have garbage stuff in our lives that trigger us; and, with that, I also know that we all are capable of murder and/or suicide on the worst days of life. I’ve had enough bad days and have struggled enough with anger, depression and my family heritage garbage to get that!
I also see that all of our life rhythms are shaped by these heritage stories, cultural experiences and educational opportunities. Thus, we all handle our cognitive, action and emotional life centers very differently. As well, it seems that we are all stronger in one of those centers than the others. So, we must strive to keep on guard in nurturing all three areas for balance, despite what our family, gender or culturally-framed pictures might have handed us. I’m now thinking that our friend Richard must have snapped emotionally from the pressures he had in his other life centers.
So, Richard, I’m sorry. I lament your loss, your family’s loss and all of the horrific deep life-altering pain that your daughter will have to work through. I’m also sorry that your friends who journeyed with you were not there to be “with” you on the worst day of your too short life... I’m also sorry that your other home dirt-based friends were not there to give you the type of “with” comfort you needed to deal with the pressures you felt. And, that none of us knew you well enough to know that you owned or had access to using a gun for such a horrible act. That really grieves me. ( I have now read enough about criminology motives to understand the concepts of familicide and anomic suicide. Sigh.)
May you and your beloved family rest in peace; and, may your friends continue to wrestle and get better at being “with” others. We will deeply miss you, brother, and your fun-loving presence at our reunion gatherings...
Here is to hoping that we all might get better at asking deeper questions and being in each others faces about the reality of every part of life to truly Love Deep.