Rich was my youngest brother and my best friend. I was always the big brother to him and forever known as his Bubba. I guess because he was the baby of the family and I was the oldest, I figured it was up to me to protect him. But when cancer raised its ugly head, “Bubba” was helpless. Although his family and friends prayed hard, his second bout with the dreaded disease took him away from us.
Rich was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer some 23 years ago and survived, but this time around he lost the battle with stomach cancer. He went into the hospital on his 63 birthday and passed away a few days later. I don’t know exactly why his death has hit me so hard – I lost my dad and my sister and although it hurt back then, losing Rich has really shook me to the core.
Perhaps it’s because we were so close – I talked to him every day and saw him at least twice a week. We enjoyed doing the same things, going to car shows and drag races – shooting guns, following those Texas Longhorns, fishing, and years ago, riding those old motorcycles.
Richard was a better man than me – he was a better dad – and although he didn’t attend church, he knew the Bible inside and out. He had a huge oak tree on his place and erected a cross beneath it, that was his church and he prayed under that tree often – he named the mighty oak “Big Jake.”
When Rich got pancreatic cancer, the doctors gave him only a few months to live – by the grace of God, he proved them wrong and lived another 23 years. Although I try my best to be grateful that I had those 23 years with him, it doesn’t stop or ease the hurt that I feel. And of course, I’m not alone – my mother who is still living and 91 years old lost her second child. My other brother, Joel, is also hurting. My wife had known Rich since he was just a kid and they were close as well. Rich has four children who love him deeply and they are also having to deal with this heart breaking loss.
My brother, Rich, along with my dad are the greatest men I’ve ever known. I like to think that someday I will see them again.