I am not sure how to write this post and I am still not sure this is the right place to do it but here it goes.
I love my mom so much. She has a heart bigger than anyone I know. She spent my formative years dedicated to me and our family but was always missing something. When we moved to Georgia, it was a hard adjustment. There were some turbulent years but finally, back in 2010 she met Richard.
He was a tough nut to crack. Just a tough guy and a quiet man. He began opening up to mom and became her best friend. They did everything together. From the moment she woke up in the morning to when she was in bed at night, they were texting. She was texting with him when I was in the delivery room. Right after I had Miller and I was depressed being down in Georgia away from my mom, she was trying to talk me in to coming to town early for Thanksgiving. I told her, only if I could meet the famous Richard.
It did not take long until he became a staple of our life in Knoxville. Mom was constantly texting pictures of Miller to him. When Miller was going through his stranger phase and would not dare look at any man, he would still jump into Richard's arms. Richard got a kick out of Miller bouncing in his jumperoo and every, single time he saw him, he would say in his super deep voice, "Bouncy, bouncy Miller". Miller would smile and bounce for him. I posted about our trip to the Big South Fork with him. When we were in for the holidays we went to dinner at a new restaurant downtown with a 2 hour wait. Mom and I sent Miller across the waiting area to Ben and Miller ran to Richard instead. He loved him!
Mom and Richard did everything together. Shopping, eating out, trips. They began hiking and mom loved it. They were collecting gear and planning different hikes. Richard was obsessed with the Appalachian Trail and mom and I were learning about it. He wanted to start doing overnight hikes. He bought mom a sleeping bag for Christmas.
He planned his first overnight hike for last weekend. It was unseasonably warm and perfect for a hike. He left Saturday morning and mom was supposed to pick him up Sunday afternoon. She heard from him on Saturday night and he said he was sleeping under the stars. She heard from him that morning and he did not get as far as he wanted so she knew it was hard on him. He never showed up that day and mom figured he just did not get as far as he wanted.
She went back to wait on him on Monday and he never showed. She notified the rangers and they were going to look out for him. She knew something was terribly wrong. He never showed on Tuesday. Wednesday morning they sent out a rescue team. They encountered another hiker who had come across Richard earlier on and said he looked wet and cold.
He never made it to the shelter that he planned on getting to that night but Sunday morning, the same hiker said he arrived at the shelter. He said that Richard threw down his pack, and sat on the bunk. Within a few minutes, that hiker left.
The rescue team made it to the shelter and found him still laying on the bunk. He had passed away. The said that his shoes and socks were off. My mom knows Richard and knows that if he was cold, he was a smart hiker and would have taken off his shoes and socks and gotten in his sleeping bag immediately. The fact that he was not in his sleeping bag tells her that he must have gone quickly, which is what we hope.
If he had to go, he went doing what he loved and in a beautiful location. In one of the days leading up to this he had sent mom this quote someone else said about this area. "true wilderness areas, where one can commune with nature and leave the cares of the world behind". She believes God sent him up there because it was his time.
This is hard. It is hard to watch my mom in so much pain and know that her life as she has known it has been completely altered. It is hard because I cared about this man and thought he would be there for a long time. I thought him and Miller would become closer buddies and that he would take him hiking. Him and Ben could talk about technical man things.
A friend of mine said on her blog when she was facing a hard time, you wonder how the world can go on when yours has stopped. This is exactly how mom and I feel. I want to scream to everyone I see, "This world just lost and amazing man and it will never be the same". I want people to know that we are in pain and we miss him. We want people to know who is was. I kept reading articles that were talking about this "unidentified male hiker" and I wanted to yell, that is Richard, not just anybody. Now that they have identified him it his hard to see his name up there.
I know this is long and I dont expect that anyone has made it through this but that is okay. I am really writing this to Richard. So he knows how much he meant to me and my family. That he touched so many of our hearts and right now there is a big hole where he was. It will heal and be scarred but never be gone. We will always remember and love him. I know he is up there laughing at us and will always be there watching over us. I pray in the longterm that Richard can guide someone to mom. I will always tell Miller who Richard was and how he loved him.
If you have made it through this, thank you! Please pray for us all. All of the lives Richard touched. Ours that he left in pain. We need healing, strength and peace.