Some folks have asked off line for the text of the story I read at Rich's service today. Here it is. I sanitized a
bit for mass consumption, but this happened largely as read. Several people approached me after to say
they had heard this story from Rich or Jeff, largely as I remembered.
"Rich was very enthusiastic, very curious, and could find joy in simple things. Life is a series of individual
moments strung together like frames in a film. If you are lucky, some of those individual frames stand out.
Rich had a way of collecting perfect moments. and I was lucky enough to be there for one.
One of these moments occurred after a weekend camping on the Charles. Rich had discovered Lauren’s
and my love for all things boats and camping when we’d run into each other at the falls in South Natick. We
had stopped in to look at water after returning from a paddle sports expo in Maine and ordering kayaks we
could not afford. Rich and Jeff Benitz were launching a ramshackle aluminum rowboat for a drift down
stream. Rich demanded we drop everything and join them. It took no convincing.
We set out for our camping trip a few weekends later. Jeffrey and I were in a canoe, lugging tents, and a
cooler Lauren and I had packed with enough food for a week. Lauren was in a Kayak, and Rich in the
rowboat, hauling gear, a half ton of fire wood, and a heroic quantity of beer. We lazily paddled up stream
about 2 miles and set up camp. Rich and Jeff went off fishing, leaving me to make the fire. I found out later
that this was a test. Rich told me about camping with another friend, who, when they returned, was trying to
light an oak log with a Bic lighter... With predictable results. My fire was hot enough to smelt copper, so I
guess I passed...
We spent the day cooking vast amounts of food, laughing, and telling stories. When it got late and we set
off for our tents, Rich stayed at the fire. He was hypnotized by the fire, slowly melting down all the empty
cans into a blobby aluminum ingot. Gleefully watching as the cans would slowly distort, change color, and
collapse into liquid. He was having one of those moments I mentioned, and I left him to it.
The next morning after breakfast and listening to Will Shortz NPR puzzle segment on Rich’s 1970’s
transistor radio, we set off home. It was threatening heavy rain, so Jeff and I started singing the theme song
to Hawaii 5-0, and paddled the heck out of that canoe. We got to the landing on Farm Rd, stowed the gear,
and noticed that there was no Rich or Lauren. We paddled back up stream and found them. At a bend in
the river, they had found an eddy. Rich was flopped in the bow of the rowboat, arms and legs dangling over
the gunwales, spinning in a circle, and Lauren was drifting, in reverse, in a large circle around him, riding
the eddy. Both in a state of bliss, enjoying a moment. Rain was coming, so the buzz-kill Jeffs in the canoe
broke the reverie and we returned to shore.
We returned to the landing, stowed the rest of the gear, and it started raining. Not little drizzly rain. Not
moderate soaking rain. A huge torrential downpour. It was so heavy, there was no way possible that the
windshield wipers would have kept up with it, so we just hung out in the parking lot. It was actually pretty
refreshing. It had been very hot and humid all weekend, and the rain was rather warm, so it was very nice to
just stand in it.
Then Rich walked straight into the river.
Ordinarily I would not have even considered doing that, what with all the shopping carts and car batteries in
the Charles, but I figured “meh” and joined him. As did the others. The sensation was pretty wonderful. The
water was very warm, the rain, and air temp were all pretty much the same. The air and water were almost
indistinguishable from each other. Then we looked over to Rich. He was in the water above his nose. Water
level right below the eyes. He beckoned for us to do the same. We did, and then it happened. The
sensation of the air and water being the same. The quiet THUP THUP of the rain on the water, with your
ears under water. The fist sized water drops spearing through the surface of the water, puling a trail of air
under the surface, and shooting back up. Mesmerizing. A perfect moment. A moment where, if only briefly,
you say to yourself “if this is all there really is, I’m OK with that.”
Life is a series of moments. Those moments are lost forever when nobody is left to remember them. We lost
Jeffrey early this summer, and now Richard has gone.
Rich, thanks for sharing this moment with us. We will keep it safe for you."