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  • Writer's picturejessica wright

The First Birthday Without You

Admittedly, I have had mixed emotions about this day since the blur of that week of May 31st through June 4th of 2021 ended. At the time, April seemed so far away. Yet, here we are. You see, on the one hand, I’ve looked forward to this day as I knew it would be an opportunity to gather close to family, reminisce and celebrate on a life that we so desperately miss, and so desperately long to feel the closeness of its presence again. However, you see, on another hand, it’s a day I have been dreading and almost was hoping would take even longer to come as I knew it would be a day where the hole that’s been left inside me, inside of all of us, would open back up and swallow me whole again. Intense emotions that I’ve almost avoided these last few months would get their stranglehold, take their footing, and, no doubt, I would succumb.

However, with that hole...that huge empty absence. It got me to thinking. Maybe there’s a way to fill it at least a little bit...never fully but at least lay a foundation. And maybe there’s a way we could be reminded of his presence and feel the closeness to him we all so desperately long to feel.

You see, there is no denying Rich’s physical body has left us. However, I think if we stop and take a look around, we might could find little ways he’s still here and the pieces of himself he’s left us with.

The most obvious example is with my own son, Carlisle. Not only is he a spitting image with a deep love and natural ability for sports but when given the opportunity to choose his number for both his soccer and upcoming t-ball season, completely unprompted he told his coaches he wanted to be number 12. Just like Rich... So the legacy of #12 continues...

And so often we associate Rich with sports but one thing about him is his inclusivity, his personality. He was the life of the party, the center of his friends, and always up to mischief that gave everyone around him a good laugh. We don’t have to look any farther than my own Lucille Marie to see those same qualities as she is a leader amongst her friends. She's the gravity that pulls everyone around her together. She’s never met a stranger and loves her people HARD but has no problem sacrificing any one of you for a prank that brings on a belly laugh.

And both of my kids are master egg cookers just like their Uncle Rich.

We all know Rich had a taste for sophistication and the finer things in life just like his Aunt Jodi. If we look, we can all still see him there next to her talking extravagantly over a glass of Pouilly Fuisee while wearing his best pair of crocs.

And much like Billy, Rich’s dog was like his child and lived a life better than most human children.

And Katherine... Rich definitely left his knack for showing up late to all family events as well as his ability to work a room or a crowd. I see so much of that in your career success now.

As for Granny and Aunt Rita, I see Rich so clearly in your DEEP love and affection for your family. There is nothing more important to you than us, and I know the same is true for him. I don’t want you to feel slighted because I grouped you together, but I also hated to once again bring up Granny sticking fingers in rear ends to "check her grandchildren's oil".

And if you are missing Rich’s room filling, sometimes obnoxious, but LOUD and always joyous laugh. Look no further than Aunt Becky. I know we can find a little scoop of that foundation to lay in our deep wounds there.

In all of his aunts, uncles and cousins, signs of him can be found whether it's with the volume with which they speak, the embellishments to the stories that they add, or just the joy they get from being around one another.

And his friends... so many signs there... the jokes, the one-liners, the message boards, or fan duel line ups. Rich can be found in every single piece.

Drew, how might we see Rich there? Well aside from his black sheep Ole Miss leanings, I see someone who would do anything for Lucy and Carlisle at any given moment as they are his greatest joys, and I know Rich is the same. He made his obsession with both of them clear and would’ve played any sport, got down for any tackle, or thrown and caught any ball every single time they’d ask. Just like their Dad.

And Joey... there’s no doubt Rich left one trait to you...and that’s the ability to hurry up and complete a project as quickly as possible no matter what shortcut we must take let’s just hurry up and get it done. Also, your ability to put up with Angela is second only to Rich’s.


Like with Brice, when we need to see Rich, look no further than Phish anything...shows, apparel, song lyrics.

And Sister, I see Rich in you. He always made everything more fun. Where Rich was, the party was and it was ALWAYS more fun when he was around. I see so much of that in you, too. Everything is always better when you have a part in it. You think of the little details... the special touches that make everything so much better.

And Mama and Daddy, he is all around you. He’s in the cardinals that feed outside your door. He’s in the deer that come right up to your window. He’s in the waft of cigarette smoke you get when you come around the corner. He’s in the ball games you watch. He’s in the joy of your grandkids’ smiles. He’s also in the fart jokes your grandkids tell. Mama, he’s in your love for Christmas. You both love to give and see other people receive. You love to see other people’s excitement. And Daddy, he’s there in your ability to connect with people and make them feel seen and noticed. The same way you recognize people always thinking so highly of Rich and having so many good things to say... they say the same things about you. Rich could grip the room with a story...just like you.

He’s everywhere. He’s in all of us. Yes, we miss his physical presence more than we ever could’ve imagined, but spiritually, I know deep down that he’s here.

As for me, Rich left me with perspective. Through this journey, Rich has lead me closer to my heavenly Father. In my grief, at times, I didn’t know where else to turn. However, one thing that I’ve learned is that God truly is near to the broken hearted. He never promised us that there wouldn’t be trials... that there wouldn’t be troubles. However, he did promise that he is at his best in our weakness. For when we are weak, he is strong. I think through missing my brother so much, it’s made me recognize this truth about our heavenly Father.

And it only seems fitting that we celebrate the first birthday to pass without him on this good Friday. Just like that faithful day that Jesus took that walk with the cross to Golgotha and took his last breath up on that hill, today for all of us, too, has a sense of darkness as we recognize Rich’s absence and how badly we want to feel his physical presence, hear his laugh, feel his warmth again. However, the reason we call it good Friday is because we recognize the promise that is to come just three days later. Resurrection Sunday...Jesus rose again. And just like Jesus...we’ve been promised a resurrection, too. And it’s with that promise that I take great comfort in knowing that one day there will come a time in which I will be resurrected, Rich will be resurrected, we all will be resurrected, and we will spend eternity together.

But until that day comes, I will watch Carlisle swing for the fences with number 12 on his back. I will giggle with Lucy as she pranks her Daddy. I will drink fine wine with Jodi and love my animals big along with Wild Bill. I will continue to tease Katherine, and I will kiss and hug like Rita. I will check people’s oil with Granny and tell one-liners with all of his friends. I'll laugh with Aunt Becky and add embellishments to my stories with all our kin. I will talk projects with Joey and listen to Phish with Brice. I will play wholeheartedly with my kids like Drew, and I'll think of thoughtful details with Angela. I will do Christmas big like Mama, and I will make deep connections with those all around me like Daddy. But most of all, I will continue to cling to my savior and thank him for his promises... and I will do my best to fill that hole Rich left with these little pieces of him all around me while I wait for that day that we are resurrected like Jesus...together once again.

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