Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wealthest Man in the World

It's a funny fact of life, it seems that one never fully comprehends, and for many, appreciates what they have, until it is gone. I think deep down, Ron always knew he was a rich man, even with all his self-doubts and insecurities. Yes, he truly did harbor these fears within him though I think he hid most of them well—fears of not being liked, of being unable to find success, of not being loved…all plagued him.

He faced some of those fears a few years before our dad passed away. A sort of cleansing that I think they both needed. And though at the time, I thought it might have been an unnecessary hurt for a man who tried to raise us the best he could, in retrospect, I think it helped them both. They laid the demons between them to rest, while they could, and had no regrets. Not many of us can say that.

But I digress. I do believe deep down Ron knew he was a rich man, and always knew it though rarely took time to explore that knowledge. Not rich in material possessions, but wealthy beyond belief in friendship and loyalty. And I don't think he truly understood what that wealth was or meant until the day of his cancer benefit. That day I saw it in his eyes, and heard it expressed in his voice, and felt it expressed in his emotions and in the emotions of those who surrounded him with hope and concern.

I remember when he first told me others wanted to do a benefit for him, how he seemed reluctant to accept. His pride making him uncomfortable with not only asking for help, but also realizing that he wanted that help. Whether he viewed agreeing as a failure on his part or a weakness that may have translated into failure, I don't know, I only know that on the day of that benefit, he knew he was the richest man in all the land. As I stated at the start, many of us rarely understand this simple truth. Rarely do we realize just how much we mean to others or how much others mean to us. It's a rare gift when realized.

The outpouring of love, support, and hope he received that day left him in awe. The fact that others cared so much for him that they came in droves to help, both family and friends, touched him, and offered him hope.

Now, don't get me wrong. Ron loved attention, loved to be in the limelight. He thrived in that light and he relished the social aspects. My dad used to like to say that Ron never meet a stranger. And that was pretty much true, because within moments of meeting someone, he or she was already a friend. I have always envied him that natural ease with people.

But, there is a darker side to being social, to needing to be liked, and to not wanting to be alone. Sometimes his judgment wasn't so sound, sometimes he trusted people who he shouldn't and often, he got hurt. These hurts, betrayals, if you will, cut him to the quick. Yet, he was so worried about others seeing him as a failure, that he showed only the "I'm OK, I'm doing great," face to the world.

As his only sibling, I was privy to many of these hurts and betrayals. Some he committed, others committed against him. When his relationships went rocky, I usually knew why. Yet, some betrayals hurt him so bad, or caused such a sense of shame that even I didn't find out about them until after his death.

Ron and I drifted apart during one such betrayal mainly because he refused to see the truth and I could no longer stand to watch the destruction. He didn't want to admit things were as bad as they were, his pride would not allow it. That fear of failure again, I suppose. He really didn't want others to judge him and find him lacking. Sadly, few would have, but how do you tell someone that when they aren't ready to believe? So, in my own way, I betrayed him, too.

After he told me he had cancer, we talked, and I learned a great deal about both hurt and strength and soldiering forward even when all he saw ahead of him and around him was hopelessness. I watched as he never gave up hope, how he fought to live, and never stopped believing in miracles. He just never truly gave up on himself even when so scared.

Yes, Ron was a wealthy man, and to some extent, the bravest man I have ever known. Despite the cancer that robbed him of life at such a young age, I think he was also the luckiest. Brave because he faced his demons and refused to lose hope, and lucky because of the vast wealth of friendship he possessed.