Richard ‘Dickie’ Grubb
‘Dying is a sad game, even if you perfect the idea. My name is Frank Robertson, I was a friend of his, the one there, lying in the casket, keeping me to my promise. But for Richard, death is an achievement. He and I played golf together twice a week for the last nineteen years, never missed, not once. Richard’s goal was to die. In the main most don’t achieve it. Most flop around the idea, and flirt with an attempt here and there, and some, by pure accident, actually manage it. That’s why it’s a sad game. That’s why Richard’s suicide is nothing more than an achievement!
This is how I started my eulogy for Dickie. Naturally I I could see many in the congregation fidgeting uncomfortably, mostly those closest to ‘Dickie’s’ widow , Edith. A small, slight, sharp featured faced woman, dressed in the customary black dress, under a black full length coat, head covered, without tears, without trembling, and without children by her side. She and Richard childless after thirty-seven years of marriage. I continued.
‘Golf is a kind of communion. The place he and I would go to avoid reality. Dickie there, well he played the game better than most, not the game of golf, at which we were both exceedingly poor, but at playing along. That’s why he’s my hero. It’s much easier to talk about Dickie now he’s dead. I don’t have to make something of his manners, which were not perfect, or even acceptable. He farted freely, and without restraint. Richard also smoked a lot. He drank enough to be social and sometimes enough to be your best friend. The combination of which could be seen as a long-term attempt at suicide. Fear not, all you smokers and drinkers, none of these things killed Richard. No, no. His wife killed Richard.’
Ah yes, got there attention now. There was an audible gasp! The vicar started to rise, but I raised my arm in his direction, sitting the him back down in the chair, and carried on.
‘It appears some of you are uncomfortable, even a little queasy, but in his memory let us all be truthful this last time. Most of you understood Richard to be a wealthy man, not a tycoon, just an ordinary millionaire. He had guarded his money well, invested wisely, or not at all, and only bet on certainties. I know this because he and I would often have a little bet on the golf course. Richard was the kind of golfer who bet you wouldn’t make the next putt. It just happened the next putt was a forty-foot putt over a mound and steeply falling away to the right. It was the kind of bet that endeared me to Richard and like any fool I always accepted the challenge. The reason I did so was nothing to do with my confidence in holing the putt, but was to take that rarest of opportunities to see him burst himself with laughter, and call you for all you were worth. You see, the trick of Richard was that he knew people; he watched them, weighed them up, until he understood what chances they would take. Of course, being with him so much, made me the perfect foil. And, I might add, no greater pleasure was had by another living soul. Richard cared little for social graces, but learned them at the side of his wife. Murder was a constant thought in the life of Mrs. Edith Grubb.’
Edith, I recall, sitting in the front pews, raised her head, lifting her veil, and smiled. Several mourners coughed, others simply cleared their throats, one woman sobbed openly.I was undeterred.
‘Richard was a bastard, not literally, but generally speaking. Edith rarely spoke about her adventures into murderous thoughts, except to say something like: “I’ll bloody kill him.” Not exactly ambiguous, but always laughed at by those of us who knew Richard. Indeed it was only the ‘how’ that caused her to stumble from that chosen exit of a long marriage. While he slept in the chair, afternoon or evening, was always a good time to ‘run him through’ she told me, but that would only bring recriminations on herself. So for many years Edith, you should know, amused herself with inventive and intuitive ideas on how to end her husband’s life!’
It was at this point Edith’s smile developed a chuckle. Holding myself, chest quivering with amusement, I continued.
‘I came to Richard late in is life, in fact he’d achieved most of what he wanted to achieve. I’d retired from Virgin Atlantic as a senior captain, a widower. The fact is, with retirement, and the loss of my wife, came the idleness. Richard, on the other hand, working past retirement age, to avoid even greater time with his wife, was done enjoying a life together. In fact, running the business had almost done the job for his wife years earlier. I remember the first time we met. I retired to California looking to get away from family who believed I could never live without my darling wife. You see, they weren’t wrong. I had every idea of doing myself in, somewhere else, away from everything I knew. Only a week after arriving in another country, and needing a beer, I happened into a bar. Back then a person could enjoy a smoke at the bar. Richard was doing exactly that. We swapped a nodded greeting, then enjoyed the silence and supped on our beers. If I didn’t know better I’d swear he was blowing the cigarette smoke in my direction, just to make me respond with conversation. That was it with Richard, you could not dislike the man, impossible, unless, of course, you happened to be married to him!’
Finally, the first sniggers of happy recognition rose up from the congregation. Edith bit into her knuckles.
‘It didn’t matter what I said to him, anything would have won him his bet; a bet that I would indeed engage him in conversation. He needed someone who had some kind of intelligence, and he chose me. Well, thinking back I may have been the only person willing, I was certainly the only other person in the bar. But that is all bye and bye. We both hit seventy years of age in the same year. We had known each other ten years. Richard in that time had become the legend of stories and folklore at the golf club. We talked about death, discussed sermon and eulogies. It was very simple. If I were to go first, he would tell the truth of what he knew, what we’d become. Were he to go first, then it would be me should deliver his truth. We rehearsed frequently, until we’d perfected our eulogies. So this is his story. He was no hero, no fool, and dearly loved a woman who was hell-bent on killing him before the perfect suicide deprived her that success. This was his achievement and one that shouldn’t be taken away from him. Did I know Richard would do such a thing? Truthfully, not. Just as I know that Edith’s intentions came from her exhaustive efforts to protect him from heart disease, her efforts to love him, and keep him safe.’
It was hearing this that Edith’s smile changed, deepening to tears.
‘For some years ‘Dickie’ had stolen strokes off me. There was never a hope of someone like me beating our Richard. I’m the man he saved. Along the way he introduced me to some sad people, even mad people. He always told me, “If I get like that I’ll take the tablets!” Well, my hope is that you will enjoy Richard’s memory as I have done today. There’s pain here; there’s a life left our midst that touched us with its grumbling joy. Is there even one person here who can say that he didn’t touch you, anger you, frustrate you, do you a favor at the drop of a hat, or have you rolling in your armchair with his views on life? Dickie Grubb brought me joy, broke my wallet, and saddened my heart. Whatever is true about courage in an ordinary world, Dickie exemplified it. Do not think me simply an observer, I’m just as responsible as the next fool in the achievement of Richard’s success. Dying is a sad game. But not when you’re as clever as my friend, Richard. So, in a few minutes, when we are all gathered at Dickie’s grave, don’t forget to ask him what the hell he can see from there? Tell him to raise his head a little. He’ll hate that.’
Edith Grubb looked up, winked, wiped her eyes, and with her lips, mouthed the words, thank you.
It was time to finish my the eulogy.
‘I did it, Dickie, I did it for you. Just as we wagered. Lying there, looking like you have a sun tan, you’ve won again. You win every bet, you bastard.’