Saturday, May 5, 2012

James Garfield Richardson (1964–2012)

Last Thursday, we gathered in the garden behind the Parish House at St. Joseph's Episcopal Church for a Memorial Service for James. The decision was made to have it in the garden because James loved being outdoors, and he was particularly fond of the church's community garden. It was a hot late afternoon, but the skies were clear.

After the service was over, a dogwood tree was planted in James' memory. It's a fitting tribute to a man who was always greeting people with a smile and telling them to "stay blessed."

Almighty God, we remember before you today your faithful servant James; and we pray that, having opened to him the gates of larger life, you will receive him more and more into your joyful service, that, with all who have faithfully served you in the past, he may share in the eternal victory of Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

James Garfield Richardson, son of J.W. and Clara Hall Richardson, was born on January 31, 1964 in Johnston County, North Carolina, and on April 25, 2012, he departed this life at Duke Medical Center.

Garfield, as he was called by his family and friends, was educated in the Public Schools of Wake County. He was a hard worker and a kind-hearted man who loved his family and his friends.

He leaves to cherish his memories his loving and devoted mother, Clara, and father, J.W. Richardson of Raleigh; sisters Sherri Richardson and Teresa Richardson of Raleigh; brother Gregory Richardson (Betty) of Raleigh; two nieces, eight nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives and friends.

(And also a community of friends and neighbours in the Old West Durham neighbourhood. James, you touched more people than you'll ever know. Stay blessed, my friend.)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Questioning Why and Finding Comfort

I found out the news that a person whose athletic (and academic) successes I had heard of since high school, and who grew up to be a legend in the National Football League had passed away today. Junior Seau was a standout student-athlete at Oceanside High School, and he had graduated the same year as I did.

When I had heard the news, I was immediately taken back to 1986. Both the newspaper and yearbook staffs from my high school were in Anaheim, CA for competitions that included high school newspaper and yearbook staffs from all over California. I was serving as the sport editor for the paper and competing in the sport-writing competition. The person we interviewed: Junior Seau, then a standout athlete who lettered in four sports and was also an honor student at Oceanside High. I didn't remember much about the interview... just that we had a limited amount of time to ask him questions, and then we had a limited amount of time to write a 750-word story.

There isn't much I remembered about that day, except that I was struck by how well articulate and poised this guy from Oceanside was and that he seemed to be destined for greatness. He would eventually go on to USC and then play professional football with the San Diego Chargers, the Miami Dolphins, and the New England Patriots.

The news of Junior's death had spread through Facebook and Twitter. I had friends who not only knew Junior, but was also friends with him. One of my friends was in anguish. He kept on asking "why?" Why did he have to do this; why couldn't he have talked to someone; why couldn't he have turned to family and friends to ease his burden and his pain? "It's frustrating when people who need help, who really need help, don't turn to their family and friends. This is happening too often! For the record, I have a shoulder for you to lean on, I'll listen as long as you care to share your thoughts! Reach out for help!!!"

We don't know what was in his heart and in his mind. It seems rather uncharitable towards him and towards his family (his poor anguished mother and his three teen-aged children, amongst others) to speculate what that may have been or to even link previous accidents and incidents to the final, fatal action he did earlier this morning. All we could do is offer prayers to the family and friends Junior left behind and to offer comfort to those who knew and loved him.

Speaking of offering comfort... in late March, a fellow NC Filipino Choir member had lost a relatively young relative (36-years old) to a brain aneurysm. He left behind a wife and a young (7-year-old) daughter. I was asked at the last minute to play the organ for his funeral. Following the funeral was a Rosary said as part of a nine-day Novena following this person's passing. Somehow, in the repetition of the prayers and the Tagalog songs to Mary sung in between each decade, I found comfort. I didn't know Roderick well... I saw him at various Fil-Am gatherings, especially those in which the choir had also sung... but despite that, I still found comfort in the Rosary, in the songs, and being with others lifting their voices and their hearts in prayer together. I kept thinking that despite the sad occasion for everyone gathering, it is comforting to know that they were there and praying, specifically, those prayers, and then those litanies, all for the repose of the soul of Roderick. Perhaps it's morbid of me to think this, but I think it would give me comfort to think that someday, when it is time for me to be called from this earthly life, that someone would want to do the same for me and find comfort from it. I know when we said those prayers for my Tito El, we had been comforted by them. I remembered people coming to the apartment in Makati every day for nine days after he had passed away, and we had prayed, talked, eaten, reminisced.

I end this rather rambling post with a YouTube video by USC Athletics that was made in memory of Junior Seau. Neighbours had known him to sit in his balcony facing the Pacific Ocean and play his ukelele and sing songs. For Junior and for Roderick: Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Amen.