It was a marathon, but the trip to Umatilla this weekend was priceless. Rick was in the hospital about three years ago. Several hospitals actually. He finally ended up in Seattle after a midnight ride from the Tri Cities area in an ambulance. He had symptoms that mimicked meningitis, but it wasn’t meningitis. I’m not sure they ever came up with a definite diagnosis. Then there were problems in the last year or so with phlebitis in one leg.
Perhaps that’s what prompted him to get everything organized. As his pastor put it in the memorial service, “we were the only ones who were surprised last Sunday.” Rick had organized things, picked out his favorite music, made a tape and left all the materials with his pastor. I can only imagine how difficult it was for this man to come to Robbie and say “Rick left this for you.”
Words aren’t enough to describe what happened Sunday afternoon.
Imagine a basketball sized high school auditorium. People are filling one side of the bleachers. A few flower arrangements, a couple of rows of chairs, and AV equipment are on the floor facing the other set of bleachers. Somebody grabs a mike and asks folks to scoot closer together because “we’ve still got people coming in and they’re backed up to the sidewalk.” A few minutes later the pastor, my nephews and the AV guys said the heck with it, had us turn the props towards one end of the court and started seating people in the other half of the bleachers. In a town with about six thousand people, we had at least six hundred at that service.
It was unconventional to say the least. There must have been at least two dozen students who shared stories and memories of Mr. Wyland or Coach Rick. There was some from friends and family, but it was mostly the kids, some very articulate kids.
And yes, there was a purple tutu. He made a bet with the cross country team. If they made it to the state meet; he would wear a purple tutu. In public. They did and he did.
I knew the family Rick. I didn’t really know the teacher or the coach, or the believer. My loss. I only hope that when the time comes I can be as cheerful and graceful about facing my mortality as Rick was.
And I was reminded of something I believe is very important. Sis and her husband not only shared their teaching skills but their personal support and when needed; their home. At least two students spoke briefly, without too many details, of times when they needed a refuge and they found it. We can test for teaching skills and that’s important; but I’ve never heard of a test for empathy. And that may be the most important skill of all.
Brother I am going to miss you. But, when I see those wonderful sons of yours smile or laugh or lend some one a helping hand I’ll know that you’re there too; with a smile, and words of encouragement.
And on the home front? We left three cats with three litter boxes. We were gone approximately fifty four hours. With these ladies this is something you keep track of, believe me. I am prepared to swear that Lucky met us at the door and led me to the box in the pantry. She looked at me, looked at the box and looked back at me. Her expression was priceless and very, very eloquent.