Rick, during his college years
Last Sunday morning, the Lord called my brother, Rick home to Heaven.
In the week that has followed, through many tears, I have had the joy of reading remembrances of him written from people whose lives he has changed in a profound way. On Wednesday evening, my family and I stood for 4 1/2 hours while hundreds of people from all the parts of his life came to pay tribute to him and express their love and sympathy over the loss of my very beloved brother. On Thursday morning, we celebrated his life with a funeral service filled with the music he would have loved and with a sermon that shared the good news of eternal life through Jesus Christ; exactly the way he would have wanted it preached. He always said the first thing he wanted to do when he reached Heaven was to see the face of Jesus and the second thing would be to hug my dad and tell him how much he had missed him. Now, I have one more person waiting to meet me when I get there.
Throughout this week, I have heard many stories from college friends, church friends, and colleagues. I have heard from those he led to Christ, baptized, and couples he married. I heard many stories about lives he had saved, couples he had married, and those he had mourned with while loved ones were buried. My brother, Brian had stories from his unique position of being not only Rick's only brother, but a fellow pastor who shared things with him that only he could.
But, now it's my turn to share the memories that only I can, as Rick's only sister; his "baby sister".
I was trying to bring back my earliest recollection of being with Rick. I have vague memories of a vacation when I was 3 years old, but my first actual memory of being with my brother was an early Saturday morning when I was 4 or 5. This would have made Rick about 13 or 14. By this time, he was already heavily involved in sports. Baseball, basketball, football...you name it, he played it! I believe this particular morning it was intramural bowling. He would get up very early on Saturday mornings and eat his cereal as he read the sports page before his ride would pick him up. I would sit next to him and look at the "funny papers", even though I really couldn't read! Even then, I just wanted to be next to him. Of course, he was never around long. Up and out the door he would be. I learned to share my brother very early on. It would be a necessary skill throughout my life! I would relish the times when he and all his friends would show up to play basketball on our basketball court. Friday nights in the summer meant groups of his friends playing cards on the carport and putting up cots and sleeping bags for a night under the stars. As I got a little older, I gained an appreciation for the fact that he had some very cute friends so the constant "bounce" of the basketball didn't seem quite so annoying. How I loved the Saturday night high school basketball games and the summer baseball games. Even though I was young and didn't pay too much attention I learned to say "Good game, Rick", whether or not he had actually been in the game. He would just smile down at me and "Well, Thank you."
Sometimes, I would get lucky and he wouldn't have any place to go or do for a little while and he would take me to the park or to what we called "The Icee Store". One of my favorite memories was when he walked all over the neighborhood with me looking for "Icee Bear" points on the sides of empty Icee cups so that I could earn a beach towel with the Icee Bear face on it! (Back before people were ashamed to drop their trash on the ground you could find these cups all over the place!). When I was afraid of the "see saw" in the park taking me too high off the ground, he would stand up and move the other seat down and up......just high enough so I wouldn't be scared. On Saturday evenings while my parents were at card club, he would make my brother and I his special "secret" potato chip dip of mustard, A-1 sauce, and parmesan cheese that we would eat while we watched "My Three Sons" and "Time Tunnel". Afterwards, I was the "crowd" as he and Brian would play "Big Time Wrestling" as "Flying Fred Curry" and "The Sheik". I craved time alone with him because there wasn't much of it. He was always doing something, running somewhere and I would tag along whenever I could.
After he gave his life to Jesus in 1971 and he felt the call to the ministry, my favorite times were those Sunday mornings when he would preach in various churches in the community and around the state. I can remember those early sermons and I learned my first Bible studies from my brother. When he met his wife, Elizabeth, I had to learn to share him yet again, but this time with someone who would also be my sister. I will never forget the night he came home and told my parents he had asked Elizabeth to marry him....while he was still in high school. As a 10 year old, how much fun it was to be with the two of them during those early years of their life together!
But, time marches on, as it always does. He graduated from high school and went to college. Back in the days before the internet, when long distance calls cost a fortune, Rick would call home on Sunday nights from a pay phone in his dorm. I was allowed about a half a minute to say hello, after which I would go to my room and cry my eyes out because I missed him so much. I waited for those weekend visits home as much as mom and dad, and they would end much too soon.
Marriage came, and fatherhood soon after and during those years, I grew up as well. As we aged, even though we had our own families, he remained my hero. He was always here for me....never farther away than a phone call. He performed my marriage ceremony, baptized me and my husband and our sons, put up with my husband's love for the Bengals, and led us as we dedicated our children to the Lord. When our father passed away, he held our family together with his faith and his strength He became a "bampa" to three wonderful grandchildren, who have their own special memories of the great love their grandfather had for them.
I was so blessed to have Rick as my brother. I used to tell him that he reminded me of "Charlie Brown" and he used to tell me that even though I was his "baby sister", I was really much more like "Lucy" than "Sally"! If you had to hand pick the qualities you would want in a brother, Rick had them all. I loved him with all my heart.
And now, I have to share him again. This time it will be harder because I can't pick up the phone to call him, or IM him on the internet. I can't even send him a round of "Family Feud" to help me win. I'm not sure how I am going to get through it, but I will. He would tell me that my faith will get me through it and that I need to be strong in the Lord. But, what will keep me going the most is that fact that I know someday, when I reach the gates of Heaven, he is going to be there waiting for me My hero, my brother.