The envelope arrived in the mail with no fanfare: from the estate of H. Richard Read. Inside was nestled a check for $1.82. That’s correct; the entire estate of H. Richard Read amounted to $1.82. I think I will frame the check so I can be reminded of the true riches he left behind.
You can’t put a dollar amount on the “real” estate that Rich left all those who knew him. My kids and grandkids now share the home that we bought together forty some years ago. This old house has seen a lot of life, and that continues to this day. Just this week a man who recently was released from prison, someone we had helped years ago, stopped by to say hello. Even in this age of Covid, people who have been loved, cared for, touched by us, show up. It’s a relief for them to know that we are still here. There’s something to be said for just staying. Constancy is a rare but precious commodity. Longevity too often loses the battle to novelty, and we are the worse for it.
Yesterday, my son and older granddaughter watched the Yankees play in the post-season. This is the first baseball season that Rich and Jack have missed watching together. And it was bittersweet. This is but one of many traditions Rich instigated and which continue to this day, this week, this season, this year. The baseball draft, meticulously choosing fantasy teams, enjoying yummy food, and launching lighthearted rivalries-this is part of the Rich estate. Opening day at Dodger stadium with the traditional stop at Phillipe’s for French dip is eagerly anticipated annually. Perhaps some day in the future, the grandkids will continue to honor Gramps’ legacy in this way, taking their children to Yankee games, laughing, cheering, and munching their way through nine or more innings. May it be so.
Recently Jack was appreciating his long friendship with Ryan, remembering Rich’s example of enduring friendships. Rich had great and faithful friends because he was a great and faithful friend. To find one true friend in this world is elusive, especially in the age of virtual “friends.” But Rich formed those strong alliances; loyal, faithful, and long lasting friendships which stood the test of time. As Rich’s health declined in his later years, these friends just “showed up,” as Rich had done for them countless
times before. That’s what I call “real” estate!
And books… a cavalcade of books, from the ridiculous to the sublime. As we are still organizing Rich’s voluminous library, we find everything for the bibliophile: knock-knock jokes, theology, history, children’s books, Bibles, animal, vegetable, mineral, it’s all there. There are first editions, dust covers intact, in pristine condition, and books gleaned from thrift stores, with stickers of 99 cents, or even $1.99. Books are to be treasured, revered, and cared for diligently, whether expensive or bargain basement. This legacy is also bequeathed to future generations. Stories are carefully culled over and selected, just the right words for the right occasions. Christmas stories, scary stories, poetry, allegories all come alive as read by Rich to audience
young and old. Funny bedtime stories are read at Wineskins year after year, eagerly anticipated. Whether we hear them for the first or fourth time, they are always special and memorable. Personal stories, created for each child bring characters to life: Murky, Urbootie, and Noah Growl. The stories are as unique and individual as each child. The characters are as unforgettable today as their creator.
Music came to life in the Read estate. Songs were sung every night at bedtime. There were always the classics, and then the made-up songs, again each tailored to and special for each child. Today the son sings the same songs to his daughters; the daughter sings to her son. Special songs bring a flood of memories. “Now Is the Hour, When We Must Say Goodnight,” “Danny Boy,” “Heart of My Heart,” “Shine on Harvest Moon,” are just of few of the nightly renditions the kids eagerly anticipated. Once, when Rich returned from a trip to the Northwest, he told me he had written a song for me. And he had. And he wrote the words down and he sang it for me. It is framed in my room, one of the ineffable memories of Rich.
These are but of few of the invaluable gifts bestowed on all who knew Rich, with ripple effects ever extending outward. Some gifts are tangible, they are worn, or read, or listened to, or looked at, or admired, or played with. We are still finding hidden treasures among all that has been left behind; Rich’s special gift of presence and presents. Thoughtful foresight left gifts for the babies coming whom he would never get to meet. While they will never meet Gramps, he will have indelibly touched their lives, and the lives of those yet to come.
In the worldly sense, the estate of H. Richard Read: $1.82. In Kingdom currency: priceless.
October 10, 2020