Sometimes you’re just wish you hadn’t answered the phone.
That’s exactly how I felt on Monday morning when I hung up the phone after speaking with the son will of a long, long time friend, Richard Tonkin.
Richard’s son Jordan had called to tell me the worst possible news. To the shock of those closest to him Richard had collapsed and passed away a few days earlier.
Jordan’s indescribable grief poured through the phone and my heart broke as the reality of what he was telling me began to sink in. As crushed as I felt by his news, his pain must have been far worse.
My friendship with Richard began in a most unusual way. In the early 1990s – I think it was 1991 – he contacted my friend Bruce Lee’s company to inquire about a very strange thing. Did they know anybody who could conduct a Fire Walk Seminar as Richard wanted to host one in his local community?
Bruce contacted me – I had done this particular seminar many, many times – and we arranged to meet with Richard.
You know how, on rare occasion, when you meet someone for the first time, you just know that you really like that person and want to get to know them better. That was exactly my reaction upon first meeting Richard. He had driven into Calgary to meet with us and after the meeting he and I had gone to a local restaurant for dinner and sat talking until the owner politely asked us to leave as it was 2:00 AM and he was closing.
In the years since then our friendship has grown to one that I can best describe as comfortable. By comfortable I mean that despite long gaps in our communication, whenever we did get together or talk on the phone we immediately picked up where we had left off before.
Eighteen years ago, after I had life-saving lung surgery, Richard drive for four hours through a snow storm to visit me in hospital in order to make sure “you’re not doing anything stupid.” He spent five or six hours by my bedside before driving four more hours back home.
I never had a short conversation with Richard. That was not possible. I would guess that our average “quick” call to catch up and find out how we were each doing would last an hour and a half to two hours and the conversation was always scintillating.
We were seldom in the same city at the same time and when we were our “quick coffees” were always three hours or longer.
Richard was one of these rare, truly deep thinkers whose philosophy was, for the most part, well outside of mainstream and he could always present highly intelligent, extremely articulate, well thought out and difficult to refute points of view on pretty much any topic.
The last time I saw Richard he was here over-night in Calgary and he, my wife Gimalle and I went to a Brazilian restaurant – one of those carnivore carnivals where for a fixed price they will keep bringing varieties of barbecued food to your table and will not stop until you beg for mercy.
Richard and I viewed this opportunity as a challenge and we set out to outperform (out eat) the other. I suspect that after we left the restaurant the owners changed their offering from “all-you-can-eat” to “eat a lot, but we’ll tell you when to stop.”
As always conversation that night was delightful and after we dropped Richard off at his hotel, Gimalle commented that she had never been around two people who could talk as much as we did and never tire of the conversation.
I never ended a conversation with Richard without feeling wiser and more capable and on many occasions over these past twenty-plus years I have called him to seek his counsel.
While I’ve often disagreed with his advice, time has, for the most part, proven him right.
Ironically, over the past few months Gimalle has asked me several times whether I have spoken to Richard and suggested that I call him. Each time she made the suggestion, I said I would call him tomorrow.
I didn’t, for no reason other than I could always call any time.
For years I have kept a file my laptop called the Richard file. This is where I make notes of stuff I want Richards’s thoughts on next time we talk.
It is been several months since our last conversation and my Richard file has five topics awaiting our next chat.
And now I will never have the chance to discuss those five items.
I wish I had listened to Gimalle.
Regardless of how much time each conversation took, Richard would always spend part of every discussion telling me will how proud he was of his children, how well they were doing and how much he loved them.
His voice would often crack with emotion as he proudly told me of each of their many adventures and accomplishments
And so today I would like to introduce a new habit which we will discuss for the next two weeks – The Habit of Making That Call. We all have people in our lives who we know we should reach out to and we don’t, for no other reason than because life gets in the way.
The Habit of Making That Call really hit home for me on Monday when I realized I can never make that call.
Richard, thank you for so many years of unconditional friendship. You taught me much and we laughed plenty. In our culture men don’t tell each other we love them and I want you to know I love you, will miss you terribly and I am a far better person for having had you and your wisdom in my life.
Your friendship was an honour and a privilege.
None of us know when the day will come when we can no longer make that call. Let’s adopt The Habit of Making That Call today because making the call is so much easier to do while you still can.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
P.S. My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at www.lifesinksorsoars.com and let me know what you think.
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This blog is posted every Wednesday. I also post a blog each Saturday. Please visit at www.raelkalley.wordpress.com