For the three of us, it was personal. It was family. Last Sunday Rich's dad, Francois, passed away suddenly after a long, long illness. For him it was an inevitable and somewhat merciful ending to a long bout of suffering. For Rich and his family, it was the mournful loss of someone very special. And so we circled the wagons.
I've only gotten to know Francois, the nickname given to his dad by his son and my pal Dita (his real name was Francis) really well the past six or seven years or so, since the time of my breakup with Joe and the time Rich became a much bigger part of my life. I consider myself fortunate to have gotten to know both he and his wife, Flo, the way that I have. A couple of years back I visited their house down in Virginia during a roller coaster trip and the experience was so moving to me that I blogged about it soon after I had gotten home (check out A Weekend of Memories at Flo and Francois').
Through them, it's easy to understand how Rich is such the good person, and friend, that he is. He's developed in his own life the perfect combination of his parents' greatest attributes. That is, he inherited his mother's kindness and caring and his father's impeccable sense of humor. That being said, all three of us would have circled the wagons for him because he is our friend, our family, but Francois (and Flo) are special enough to us to warrant our presence all on their own.
This was something I'd already known, but it was nonetheless heartwarming to see the outpouring of love and admiration for Francis. He was a lucky guy, but it was obvious to see that he got back just a tiny bit of what he gave.
Frank was the father of two sons, Kenny and Rich, and a daughter Cathy, the grandfather of four granddaughters, Erin,, Ellyse, Ashley and Laura, and the great-grandfather of little Jake and even littler Charlotte. He had a large family of nieces and nephews, in-laws and friends, and everyone seemed to have the utmost admiration for him, and that was due to no only the kindness and devotion he showered upon his family, but his comedic wit, as well. Some of the greatest laughs I've shared with Rich over the years have had to do with something his dad either said or did to elicit laughter. Even up until late in his life he was putting out his famously hysterical one-liners.
Francois was also a Navy man in his younger days and was given military honors at his service yesterday. It was a fitting ending to a week-long mourning period and an honorable tribute to one of God's great works. I only hope that my own legacy will be as heartwarming and loving as his.
Really, circling the wagons is what you do when you lose one of your own, and through our friend Rich, his dad and his mom are one of our own. Being there for them never warranted a second thought for any of us, and the three of us, and all the rest of those who came from far and wide to pay their respects to Francois, will circle the wagons even further in the days and weeks to come. Rest in peace Francois...you will live on...