Twenty years ago today, you followed Christ to the end of your life on earth when you laid down your own to help save the lives of your fellow naval airmen. I did not know you or your family then, but your life impacts mine in ways that neither of us could have dreamed. You see, I met your little brother the same year you entered Jordan, only, at 6’2″, he wasn’t exactly little anymore! A few years later, I married him and took your precious family to be my own.
I never met you, Rich, but you had a profound impact on your brother — I thank you for loving him and helping him grow into the man he is today. The Christmas before you died, you gave him a Bible in which you wrote:
We hope you find the keys to future success through these pages. All our Love…”
Less than one month later, your brother used that Bible as he addressed the crowd at your service. A sticky note inside the Bible marks the place he used as a text that day and today. You see, your favorite Bible verse rippled through his heart and still impacts the way he lives his life today. Deuteronomy 29:29 was true that day just as it is true today:
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”
I didn’t know you, Rich, but I feel as if I do know you when I think on that favorite verse of yours. I see that you revered God’s holiness and righteousness. I can tell that your daughter and then-yet-unborn son were vitally important to you. You viewed it your responsibility to share what God’s law revealed to you to your children.
Speaking of children…your daughter and your son grew up into beautiful people who love the Lord. Your gorgeous wife eventually remarried and added another daughter to the family. Your daughter’s inner beauty shines through her artistic endeavors — photography, painting, sketching, poetry, graphic design…she does it all with God-given talent.
And your son, who was born just a few months after you died, is studying biochemistry and is on track to follow his medical dreams. One day he’d like to serve as a missionary doctor. It’s a privilege to know and love them both. In a way, I learn a little about you through my interactions with this precious family you left behind.
But there are other ways that I am privileged to get to know you, in a roundabout way. My husband saved photos and letters from you that were written during your deployment, and browsing through them gives me an inkling of the kind of person you were. I like to think we would have been friends. For sure you would have made me laugh — you and your brother apparently shared a similar sense of humor:
I snorted at your description of your part-time home as being the Land of Uncooked Shellfish. Your niece also shares your propensity for humor and wit. When she was only four years old and learned we were moving to Florida, she immediately renamed it The Land of No Shoes. Her only experience thus far with Florida was a sunny, warm vacation that allowed her to traipse around barefoot.
The letters you wrote give me even more insight into your personality, and they also illustrate your love and concern for your family. I hope you don’t mind that I share a little of one of these letters here on my blog because I think your advice is applicable to all of us as we look ahead to the coming year.
Monday, 22 June
I’ve been at sea now for some time and it has finally dawned on me that I have a younger brother who is about to embark on one of the great adventures of all time: your senior year in high school. I can’t help but be amazed at how swiftly time has passed as it seems like only last year that I was in your shoes. My, what a glorious, if not treacherous, time.
I suppose you are well into the summer by now and enjoying all that the season has to offer. You realize that I envy you as I sit on this floating piece of steel in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It would be heavenly to feel my toes dig into the sand and listen to the waves pound up on the beach again. Are you taking advantage of your windsurfer? I have a friend on board who windsurfs in Hawaii all the time. He’s a pretty radical character. He lives for those 25-30 knot trade winds. He’s offered to teach me how when we get back to Hawaii, so when you come over to see us we can go for it.
This cruise has been relatively uneventful thus far. We’ve spent a lot of time in Diego Garcia — a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean which isn’t too bad considering we could have been out at sea during this time. I’ve managed to start getting into pretty good shape out here. I’ve been doing a lot of running, swimming, and lifting. I’m going to enter a few triathlons when I get back home. I thought I would take advantage of all the outdoor sports Hawaii has to offer. There’s also a 5 mile open ocean, rough water swim coming up that I plan on entering. I’ve managed to run three-four miles every other day followed by a 2000 meter swim (about 1.25 miles). It’s really relaxing when you get into it. Diego Garcia just had a 1 0K run last Saturday and I got 44th out of about 160 runners. I felt pretty good, though, because it was the first time I’d run hard since my knee operation, and it was my first 10K.
I guess you’ve done some thinking about where you might want to go to college. Mom said that you aced your SAT which is super. I just want to make a plug about schools in general. The most important service you can do yourself is to follow your own desires and goals. Make sure that you don’t do something for anyone but yourself when it comes to college selection, field of study, etc.
There is nothing as disappointing as not enjoying where you are, or what you do. You’ll have to search your own heart and be honest with yourself, which may be not entirely comfortable, but you will benefit from it in the end. What is important is that you’ll have my support no matter what road you choose. And feel free to ask me anything about schools, etc. I’ve known people from the best schools and the worst schools, and have a few insights of my own.Well, I’ll close for now, but I promise to do better about writing in the future. Let me know what’s happening around the home front. And send me a picture if you can. You know that I’m behind you at all times, even though I’m far away a lot. Take care and be good. Support Mom and M. and Dad as much as possible. I love you!
Well, Rich, I want you to know that your brudda has taken up your fitness torch and is running a half marathon for Team Red, White and Blue tomorrow at the Louisiana Marathon Race Expo, in honor of your sacrifice. He will be carrying your flag in his backpack, so, in a way, you really will be behind him as he runs the race tomorrow.
I believe you’re behind him as he runs the race for Christ…and your wisdom and love are behind him still today.
Thank you, Rich, for your sacrifice. I look forward to the day we will meet on the other side.