I’ve written about Sugar Ray, noted Cubs pessimist, wearer of offensive T-shirts in Vegas, non-wearer of underwear, and one of my brother Tickle’s best friends. In real life, Sugar Ray was known as Rick, and in real life this past weekend, he passed away. He was 31.
Rick’s passing is one of those terrible, awful, shocking deaths, the ones that seem unbelievable because they are so sudden. On Saturday, he was at a Cubs game with a large group of friends, celebrating a victory in an otherwise disappointing Cubs season, and then partying with those friends that night. The next day he was gone.
The thing I liked the most about Rick was how friendly he was. He and I were not exceptionally close—our relationship was defined by his friendship with Tickle. Yet whenever I saw Rick, he seemed glad to see me, shaking my hand, asking me how I was, and appearing genuinely interested in my answer. We were on an e-mail list with Tickle and some other guys, going back and forth about sports and other topics, and sometimes those debates got heated (the more trivial the topic, the more intense the debates were). Yet even after an exchange of rebuttals, quips, and outright insults, he never lost that friendliness and the ability to laugh at himself. We were just guys bagging on each other in good fun.
I still have some of those e-mails in my inbox, e-mails from just a few days ago that now seem much older. Yesterday, the emptiness of that inbox, the lack of any new flurry of messages about the Cubs collapse or the Bears playoff chances, filled me with sadness.
I feel especially bad for my brother, his friends, Rick’s family, and Rick’s wife. Rick married in May. Tickle was his best man and delivered the best man speech. Now, in the same year, he will deliver a eulogy at Rick’s funeral. Rick was so happy to be married, and really, so happy with his life. To see him go when things were going so well just compounds the sense of loss.
At the same time, he lived a happy life. Rick was one of those people who took great pleasure in the little things. Food, drink, sports, movies…these things gave him much happiness, and he had a large group of friends and family to share them with. As tragic as the events of the past weekend are, he spent his last day living life the way he loved to live it. There are many, many people who live twice as long and don’t experience half the happiness he did.
What I wouldn’t give, though, to have one more argument about Derrek Lee’s batting average.
Rest in peace, Rick. You will be missed.