On June 18, 2015, I lost a very special client, friend, and mentor, Dick Adams, who died at the young age of 76 after a brief battle with cancer. (Read his obituary)
He is survived by his extraordinary family: wife Pat, (married for 52 years); son David; daughter Beth; and 6 very cool grandchildren. His memorial service was a wonderful experience for all. The stories shared were uplifting, humorous, and healing. It was truly a celebration of life – his life and our lives!
How I met Dick Adams
Dick Adams owned Elisit Solutions, LLC and was one of my very first clients after I launched my consulting business in 2005. I met him at a networking event and we were drawn together after a quirky experiment with my elevator pitch. It reminds me of how important it is to show up at networking events, even if it is uncomfortable or inconvenient. You never know who you are going to meet and how important they may become in your business and in your life.
Dick Adams earned the title of “my favorite client” because of what he did after our first work engagement. He showed up at my house with a bouquet of flowers, a letter of reference, and a bonus check for $257.63. I remember thinking how odd that amount was, but his appreciation of me and the value that I brought to his company were expressed in such an endearing and memorable way. Dick knew how to honor people and make them feel special!
A passion for penguins
Another curious thing about Dick Adams was his love for penguins. In fact, he claimed to have the largest private collection of penguins in the world. He gave me a tour of his collection and I remember being mesmerized by the penguin carving in a grain of rice. Wherever I saw a penguin image anywhere, I bought it for Dick. The last thing I gave him was a package of 10 back-to-school folders with penguins on the covers. He graciously accepted them, but I imagine he was thinking to himself, “What on earth am I going to do with ten of these?”
I took this picture of Dick’s penguins and his family photo at his wake.
The last time I saw him
Dick and his wife Pat had decided to move from Connecticut to Minneapolis to be near their children and grandchildren. They planned to drive across the country to make the move even more adventurous.
Knowing that his move was imminent, I called Dick to see if I could drop by one more time to say good bye and good luck. He and Pat were in the final stages of packing up their possessions and closing on the house. I can still see, in my mind’s eye, the boxes, moving truck, protective floor runners, packing tape, etc.
We sat down at his kitchen table and had our final face-to-face chat. I wanted to give him something special, but didn’t want him to have to pack up and haul any more “stuff.” I opted for two gift cards, one from Starbucks and the other a gas card. Both practical and road worthy. I also took a chance and wrapped up a small gemstone with the engraved word, “Faith.” When I presented it to Dick, he burst out in tears. He said, “Faith. That’s what we have been going on. That is what we need. I will carry this in my pocket for the entire trip. Thank you.”
It was a perfect sendoff gift; just what he needed to carry him forth to the next stop on his life’s journey. My only regret is that I didn’t think to take one last picture of the two of us. But I do take solace in that I took the time to go and visit him. How easy it would have been for me to be caught up in the minutiae of daily chores and business.
The last time I heard from him
He called me on my mobile a few weeks later. I was pulling into my driveway after an appointment. My mind was being consumed with thoughts of tasks to be done, pressing deadlines, quarterly taxes….and what the heck were we going to have for dinner anyway? I didn’t recognize his voice at first and then I stopped the car and turned off the engine. It was Dick Adams and something wasn’t right about his voice.
He shared with me the news that he had been diagnosed with Stage IV terminal cancer. It had spread throughout his body. He had just come out of the hospital after nine days of being treated for pneumonia. I was in shock. We both cried. I tried to look on the bright side, but couldn’t find much there. I was honored that he took the time to personally call me and share this news. I can only imagine how difficult that was for him to do.
I took comfort in knowing that he was surrounded by family and would be well supported in the final leg of his journey. I sent him cards and letters and thought of him daily. I cried for my pending loss of this dear friend.
The best way to go
I was honored to be among a large group of caring people who supported Dick in his final transition through the CaringBridge.org web site. His children – David and Beth- did an amazing job of sharing the experience of saying goodbye to someone you love. We were able to get daily updates on his progress, read emotional reflections, and lend our own support through messages sent on the CaringBridge site. (search Dick Adams Journey) Dick’s dying process was so full of dignity, acceptance, and grace. It makes me less afraid of the inevitable transition that we all will face. Death is just part of life.
The final gift was this amazing photo video that his family put together. The first song, “Say what you need to say” is still in my head!
Rest in peace Dick Adams. I will see you again soon. Until then, here’s one more penguin to make you smile. It came from a greeting card that my sister-in-law sent to me. I’m thinking of you, my friend. Enjoy Heaven!