Three years ago today, Ricky Peden passed away. He was 37 years old, much too young to be moving on from this life. I was going to start this post by saying that three years ago my best friend died, but that’s too possessive. Ricky was everyone’s best friend. That’s what made Ricky who he was.
I remember the day Ricky had his stroke, a guy from Gulfport called me that I didn’t know to inform me of the stroke. He said his name was [you pick it b/c I can’t remember] and that he was “Ricky’s best friend.” By this time, I already knew Ricky was gravely ill and I was actually packing to head to the Coast, so some of the initial shock had worn off. My first thought was, “You’re his best friend? I don’t even know you.” But that thought was quickly overcome by the realization that this guy probably was Ricky’s “best” friend on some level. On some level, some fundamental level, we all were. So, whoever that guy is, I know what you were saying.
A couple of days later, Ricky’s sister Ashley gave me the great privilege of eulogizing Ricky. (A, I’ll always owe you one for that and you know I love you. [Insert fist to chest move here.]) I wrote Ricky’s eulogy in one draft with very little editing. As a lawyer, I write all the time, but this is one of the few times that everything just seemed to fall into place. The funeral is somewhat of a blur to me because of all of the emotions involved, but I will never forget that the only thing that kept me from breaking down was the thought of Ricky and me shooting pool. Can you believe that?
Literally, when it came time for me to talk, I don’t remember physically getting up, physically walking to the lectern, physically taking out my eulogy, or physically looking at the attendees. I knew that I had physically done those things because there I was; paper in hand, at a lectern, staring at a 1000 people staring at me. In that all too surreal moment, did I hear God whispering a calming word in my ear? Did I notice a dove light on one of the church windows? Did a strange but comforting breeze come from nowhere, rustle my hair, and bring me back to the world of the present? Did a ray of sunlight shine through the clouds that covered the sky that day?
Hell no. Clear as a freakin’ bell, I heard Ricky’s voice say in his best Tone Loc impersonation, “Let’s do it.” And then it all became very clear and calm. I made it through that eulogy without breaking down. Ricky and I shot about 2 games of pool shy of infinity. We had 2 mantras when we knew that we were about to win the game: “Let’s do it” and “Rack ‘em.” The latter we saved for when we wanted to piss off the opponents or just generally be assholes (but in a good way), but “Let’s do it” was reserved for the closest of games, the ones that had been tough and it was time to truly concentrate. Corny? Maybe, but true.
So, I started out talking dramatically about my friend — our friend — and I ended up on a lighter note about pool. Well, that’s what life was like with Ricky. It was a range. He and I shared some very deep thoughts about God, people, and life. We also tried to turn a shower room in a college dorm into a hot tub with a case of beer and a door we’d taken off the hinges. My friendship with Ricky was symbolic of life itself — good times, serious times, bad times, funny times…..and often, just times. Just hanging out.
We all miss the hell out of you, Ricky. (Which is probably why you’re in Heaven, you kleptomaniac, drunk, trash-talking, sulking, never on time pain in the ass.) I don’t have a 40 oz. to pour on a wall for you like the gangstas. I’m a father of two little girls, so instead I’m about to pour 2 Yoo-Hoos on the side of my house. My neighbors will pass by and say, “Jeez, he’s up to more weird shit.”