For Pat

(This is a eulogy given by Jon Grey for our dear friend, Patrick Rivers, who we lost suddenly last month.  Jon and Patrick had a very close relationship, and his words touched and comforted many of Patrick’s friends and family the day we all said goodbye to him.  I am so happy to share Jon’s words about Pat here, as a small way to celebrate the life of one of the coolest people you could ever hope to meet.)

I first met Patrick Rivers on an evening almost two years ago, where everybody new to Starfire could come together to meet for the first time.  We spent some time talking, eating snacks, everybody introducing themselves and making getting-to-know-you conversations.  As time passed and people were starting to leave the room, it came down to just Patrick and I left.  I crossed the room to where Patrick was sitting, and re-introduced myself. 

“Hi, I’m Jon,” I said. 

“Patrick.” He answered with a tilt of his head.

And then we did something that only two people who have just met and know nothing about the other can do well…we stared at each other.  I don’t know how long we were there staring, I didn’t look at a clock.  Conservative estimates would probably put it at around three and a half hours, enough time for a thousand things to go through my head. 

Oh man, he doesn’t like me…Who walks across a room and says “Hi, I’m Jon?”  …I shouldn’t have worn this shirt, I can’t wear canary yellow.

And then Patrick said something that saved us both from the quiet…”You’re sweaty.”

And so we resumed staring…but this time something changed, and a small smile started to creep across his face, until it cracked and spread from ear to ear.  It ended up being contagious, as it spread to me too.  As he got up to leave, I’m pretty sure we were both thinking the same thing; we weren’t quite sure who the other person was, but it was going to be fun to find out.

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I mention this moment because I believe it is something that we all have in common; one of many personal stories that involve ourselves, Patrick, and inevitably end with a smile.

Patrick was the kind of person who, when he decides to write his name on all of your business cards, you can’t help but smile along; and then suggest a new target.  When Patrick walked into a bathroom, you knew he was going to come out with a freshly-styled and slightly damp Mohawk; and you were jealous because you couldn’t have one too.  My friend Patrick could give a dog a haircut, put you in a karate hold, play hard to get with the ladies, make the world’s strongest cup of hot chocolate, tell you every episode in the first season of Glee, and still have time to Google the other Patrick Rivers of the world to see what they were up to that day.

My friend Patrick had the patience to sit behind you on a thirty-five minute car ride, softly whispering “baldy…baldy…baldy” in your ear the entire time.

                Four or five months ago we started a project that could help us get to know one another, and ourselves, better.  Each person compiled a book, and in it they put the things that were dearest and most important to them.  Dreams, favorite things, the perfect day were all things that everybody was asked to consider.  As we started thinking about these questions, I asked Pat how he wanted to work on his book.  Did he want to write, use pictures, what would make this book more about Pat? 

                His answer was to promptly get up and leave the room.

                When he returned, he was wearing one of his ties and sporting a pair of glasses.  Now it’s important to note that nobody was ever sure where the tie and glasses came from.  There might be one or two days where he wore them in, but every other time they appeared out of nowhere.  He would simply duck around a corner as mild-mannered Patrick Rivers, and emerge seconds later as the Superman of professionalism.

                Casually, Pat came back to the seat across from me, trying to gauge what I thought about the change of attire.  Slowly he leaned back in his chair, his arms crossing behind his head.  It was then that I realized that I was expected to take notes.  The book was unceremoniously sent back across the table to him.

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                We all chuckle at these stories, and smile as we think about our own version that we experienced.  And, we’ll continue to remember them for a very long time to come.  But Patrick did something even more valuable in these stories than any of us realize at first glance.  If you stay with the story just a little bit longer, past the jokes, past the smiles and warmth you see just what Patrick did every day, without a second thought.  He gave. 

                My friend Patrick could split his lunch with a friend, hold the door for ladies to pass through first, always make an extra mug of extra strong hot chocolate to share with a friend, offer to loan you his favorite thing in the world; the first season of Glee, and still have time to offer his computer to other people before Googling the other Patrick Rivers of the world.

                My friend Patrick Rivers had the patience to sit behind you on a thirty-five minute car ride, lending a sympathetic ear the entire time.

                 Recently, Patrick was asked to describe his perfect day in his book.  There were no limitations on this; he could go anywhere, do anything…a day tailored to whatever he would like.  Looking in his book, I came across the answers that he had written.  There were three sentences written on that page, and they all started with the same two words.

                “I help…”

                Around the same time that Pat was answering these questions about himself, I was doing the same thing.  I haven’t gone back to look since the day I wrote my answers, but I can say one thing almost certainly…the word “help” was nowhere on my page.  Not only did Patrick want to help others at a time when he could do anything, but it was all he thought of to make his day the best it could be.

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                On the first day that I met Patrick Rivers I remember thinking one thing very clearly; he cared for those around him, and was always trying to find ways that he could make their days better.  That first evening we met, after it was confirmed that I was sweaty, Pat got up to leave the room.  As he did, he  moved the chair he had been in forward a few inches.  He carefully reached down, and as he stood up I could see that he was holding one of the cupcakes that we had put out for a snack.  Gingerly he kept it in one hand and walked out the door.  Being sweaty and alone in a room is no place to be, so I followed him.  Down the hall he walked, guarding the dessert as he weaved in and out of the families talking, eventually stopping in front of someone else who was visiting. 

                I don’t know if Patrick had planned to give that cupcake to a specific person the entire evening, if he had gotten the chance to talk to her and they had formed an immediate friendship, or if he just thought that she needed to have one and smile.  But no matter the reason, he knew exactly what he was going to do.  Walking up he introduced himself with a short “Hi, I’m Patrick” and held out the cupcake to her hand.  When it was taken, he simply walked away.  Never have I seen something as small as a cupcake mean something so great.

To Patrick, giving was not something  that you do “when you have the time,” but rather what you do while you are busy doing something else…the last ingredient needed in a recipe before it can be successful, the proverbial icing on the cake.

                I know that I will always have fond memories of time with Patrick, every time I pick up a bible I will have to fight the temptation to thumb through it to find the passage where it says that I’m old.  Every time I hear the beginning of a “knock-knock” joke I’m going to smile hoping, that just maybe, it will be Batman.  These experiences and stories will always come easy to all of us, but remembering Patrick is more, it’s taking the time to learn from his example.  It’s taking the time to stop, help, and make it seem effortless.  It’s getting a cupcake, and finding who needs it.

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2 Responses to For Pat

  1. Leah says:

    Incredibly powerful. Thank you, Jon.

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