Tonight was the wake for Rich. It was a chance for those who knew him to get together and remember the life he led, to share in his memory, and spend one last time collectively in his presence.
How do you say goodbye to a friend? To someone who has become a part of your life?
For the record, I’m not a close friend of Rich’s. There were many there tonight who knew Rich far better than myself. Those are the ones who feel the greater loss, who will no doubt have a harder time adjusting to change. Even those of us who knew Rich through work, though, are having a hard time.
I was having a hard time on Thursday. I found myself staring at my monitor, not really sure what I should be doing. Some had enough sense to go home and handle grief away from the office. I opted to hold out, being present for those who needed guidance and assistance. Presumptuous, maybe even arrogant, but a decision nonetheless. I chatted with a variety of people around the office, those of us who had worked closely with Rich, who knew Rich, who (like me) were using work as a way of holding off reality for a bit longer.
All of those people, pretty much anyone who’s been at Critical Mass for more than two years (or had been at Critical Mass), went to the wake tonight. There were many faces whom I had not seen in a very long time: Jen, Myles, Jamie, Ed, Mel, Candice, and even Nancy (whom I’d forgotten to contact with the news; she’d found out through the obituary in the paper). People had flown in from Chicago (Jerry, Neil, and Scott), New York (Taro and Anne), and Toronto (Jolene and Lindsay), and faces around town.
In addition to Rich’s family and friends were a large continent of Critical Mass veterans. We mostly stuck to ourselves, consoling, remincing, remembering, and telling stories anew. It was almost as if the clock had been spun back a couple of years.
The slideshow reminded us that time was still marching on. That a significant piece of our collective history was missing. That the buoyant face that we saw nearly every day would only been seen now in photographs and memories. His voice echoing in the rooms like a distance echo. His presence like a void. There were several times that as I talked with the others, I had to take a moment to compose myself. The joy of seeing old friends only tempered the sense of loss we all feel.
And yet, despite my feelings, I know I’m an outsider. As already mentioned, there are others who knew Rich far better, who feel a more profound sense of loss. But I cannot help that someone I trusted and respected is gone. For that, myself and many others are lessened, like a room where the light has gone out.
But the glow will always remain. Rich’s touch will be remembered and charished. And above all else, his legacy remains with us all.