I will never forget the first time I met Ricky Howroyd. I don’t know the exact day but I do remember being in my apartment cooking salmon. He walked in and hugged me right away before even meeting me and sat right down at my counter. Geena, 19, my cousin who he was dating and who lived with me at the time went to change so they could go to dinner. Ricky sat and chatted with me about my cooking. He asked the kinds of questions that made me feel like he was genuinely interested in what I was doing, which in reality was just baking salmon! He told me he always tries to eat healthy and in his condition he especially does. Ricky had a very rare strand of cancer called NUT-midline carcinoma, growing rapidly throughout his body. He was in good spirits; I could tell he was really happy and appreciative to be with Geena which comforted me considering the last few guys she dated were not even close to par. The moment I knew how sincere and genuine this person sitting in front of me really was when he started going through my mail on the counter and talking to me about it. I tell his parents all the time, that was the minute I knew he was a beautiful soul. It sounds invasive and rude but not to me because that’s the type of person I am. I wear my heart on my sleeve so go through my mail and ask me 45 questions because that shows how much you really care and I will answer honestly and willfully.
When they left, I felt upset that I had not agreed to go with them, especially now. But, the moment Geena closed the door I sent her a text, “Well isn’t he a gem!” and her response, “are you being sarcastic?!” haha! Most of the time, I was, because I didn’t like any of the guys she dated. I am a very good judge of character and the last few guys were just not good enough, bottom line. I told her how serious I was and how happy I was that she had him in her life. After that I hung out with Ricky a few times but not as much as I should have or wish I did.
Thanksgiving week was tough for me, going through my own family heartache but also because Ricky’s condition had worsened in what felt like overnight. Geena spent most nights that week at the hospital with him but spent Thanksgiving weekend with me and my best friend from home so we could be together while we were both hurting. It was by far the most difficult, traumatic and lowest point in my entire life. Despite what I was going through, we made it through Thanksgiving weekend and things started to look up for Ricky.
Tuesday December 1 I got a text message from Geena saying that Ricky was dying and she was going to the hospital to say goodbye. My soul was crushed, my heart was slowly shattering. Ricky passed December 2, 2015 at 27 years old. When I received the text from Geena I was at my office Christmas party. I fell to the ground gasping for air, holding onto the bar chair thinking if I let go I would fall off the side of the earth. I had wonderful support around me, through the night and the next few weeks, Geena and I both did. I did not know Ricky very well at the time, but Geena being like a sister and roommate, whatever she went through, I went through too.
Geena’s birthday came & went the 10th of December, we had dinner at Ricky’s old place of employment, Ruth’s Chris and it was amazing. We felt the love and felt like he was really there right beside us. His service was beautiful. It was held at his church, Grace Family. Hundreds of people poured into that church and in that moment I knew my gut feeling about that kind-hearted soul was absolutely accurate. You can really get an idea of the person someone is, by who they surround themselves with. What I saw and experienced, was nothing but smiling and love and support. Yes, it was horrifically and utterly one of the most heartbreaking days I have ever experienced but I felt an over pouring of light and warmth onto me that day in that church. Like our lives were about to be changed… and they were.
In the months after Ricky’s passing I spent a lot of time with Geena supporting her and being a shoulder to cry on. I started going to Ricky’s church with her, Grace Family and became very close with Rick and Holly, his parents as well as his closest friends. We started spending every Sunday together at church, after church, praying and sharing stories about Ricky and just our daily lives. We genuinely all started caring for each other and at that point, I felt like I had never known someone better than I knew Ricky. Five of us even got baptized together; April 2 exactly 6 months after Ricky’s passing. Even though I only met that gentle-eyed, soft-hearted man a few times, and he is gone from the earth, I feel like I have known him for years. And I am pretty sure he played a hand in the miracle that changed my family’s life as well last Thanksgiving, so thank you Ricky.
It has been a year since you have been gone. Everyone misses you dearly and I wish I had gotten to spend more time with you. Geena and I have become like family to your dad and Holly and we just adore them. I don’t know what we would do without them. They are two of the strongest, most caring and generous people I have ever met in my life. They are always there when we need them, happy, sad, or angry, it doesn’t matter the time of day or condition we are in- they are there. I never hesitate for one second to pick up the phone and call. They have created something beautiful out of your story. They have started helping others to grieve and shown people like myself that even in the darkest times, God prospers and the light can still shine bright. You did this, you brought us all together and made us a family and I am sure you are here with all of us each and every day watching and smiling at your accomplishments. Your dad is very proud of the person you became in your time here but he is also proud of the miracles you have shown all of us from up there. When I wake, I am reminded to be grateful for each day because life truly is a precious gift. You have made me look at life differently; finding joy in the simple things, living presently in each moment with the people I love, finding true happiness in whatever God has presented me, to always pray first and never worry. We may not always be strong on our own, but we will always have our RICK STRONG!