Today, Rick was remebered lovingly by his extended family, most lovingly by his mom. She greeted Rhoda and me; knowing who Rhoda was, but not me. Rhoda introduced me as the "block captain". Rhoda and I visited for about an hour, staying quiet, giving our respects and soaking everything in.
From three poster boards, mounted with photos, I learned that Rick's family was originally from Tennessee. He grew up in Logan Square near Armitage and California and as the neighborhood changed in the 1960's and 70's , his family stayed. He graduated from Chase Elementary. I couldn't tell where he went to high school, but there were pictures of him with his date from the prom and of the day he graduated. Other photos documented his life with his wife and his child. They showed him feeding and playing with his baby. There were photos of him in front of his new car, in front of a house, in a subdivision, in a suburb of a city in California. His son was there to pay his respects, but no wife. Something happened between all the happiness documented in the photos and life Rick lived before he passed on Friday from complications from pneumonia.
Most of us on the block remember Rick as the crazy looking white dude, with no teeth who was dying of AIDS, that sold drugs to our neighbors, and hung out with the prostitutes. Although I never saw anything with my own eyes, he was the next problem that our Block Club was going to go after to clean up the block.
Its easy to forget that the "problem" on any block can be someones son, father, uncle, or friend. Those three poster boards gave us a fuller picture of who Rick was as a person, it humanized him. I prayed for Rick periodically. Everytime I talked to him on the sidewalk, he was always wearing a What Would Jesus Do? key chain around his neck and asking me about a good church to visit. I never followed up.
Rick's famous quote was " I did a lot of bad things in my life, but at least I did it my way." I hope that in his last days he was able to let go of that and make peace with God.