This week I received the shocking news that my dear friend Charlie Richardson has passed away unexpectedly in Mexico from a heart attack. At first it seemed incomprehensible that vibrant, ever cheerful, good-hearted Charlie could have “shuffled off this mortal coil.” Yet gradually as I conversed with friends and we shared our stories it began to slowly register, Charlie became passive tense rather than present, as reality sank in. The night before I heard the news I had an experience that in hindsight seemed particularly meaningful. A friend and I were meeting for our weekly meditation; at the close of the evening we draw a Tarot card which usually throws uncanny insight on some pertinent issue; I had purchased a new Tarot based on the poems and teachings of Rumi that I was anxious to test out. She went first and initially expressed some discomfort at working with this new deck. Finally she drew a card; it was No 20, Judgment reversed. As I read the interpretation I could sense that she was not finding it particularly significant. Somewhat disappointed I shuffled the 74 cards and drew…. the same card, also reversed. What were the odds of that? I put it down to new shiny cards and discarded the experience as meaningless, dismissing her suggestion to read it again. The next day after hearing the news of Charlie’s death, I felt drawn to look at the cards again. The poem on the front of the card by Rumi read, “By love, the dead are made living.” Spooky – I think Charlie made one last appearance! A couple of days later I reflected on this synchronicity and decided that one of the ways I could show this kind of love was by reflecting on positive memories of Charlie. In this way he would indeed be brought alive.
Charlie and I met in the early eighties when he was hired as an account executive by McKim Advertising. He was a real find, smart, energetic, persistent and experienced and I looked forward to a lengthy relationship. Alas, when I came to conduct his very positive review and present him with a salary increase, he looked at me in horror and said, “Oh this won’t do.” and named a figure that he had in mind, that was somewhat in excess of my own earnings. When I explained the reality of the agency business, he politely informed me that he would need to leave. Charlie was a real straight shooter and you always knew where you stood.
We parted on good terms and stayed in touch but did not really renew our relationship until the nineties by which time he had become a direct marketing whiz and I introduced him to my client at Whistler. This relationship went well although at times Charlie could barely hide his frustration at the missed opportunities of data base marketing. At one time I recall trying to explain to a client that when Charlie inferred he was abysmally incompetent that he didn’t really mean it. During this time we established a tradition that lasted until this day. We used to meet once a month or so for a beer or two in Kitsilano. The group began to expand in size so we named it the Board and all our sessions were described as Board Meetings. It seemed so much more gentile to suggest we had a board meeting scheduled than an afternoon beer. Our political differences became the subject of great discussion, Charlie holding the conservative line while I took the more liberal but no matter how intense the debate Charlie never took umbrage and there were never hard feelings.
The other place where our friendship grew was on the golf course. Charlie was totally passionate about his golf game. I recall our first game together, in the mid nineties at Riverway golf course, we shot about the same score, well over a hundred. Today my score is likely somewhat worse and he has to give me 24 strokes a round as a handicap and still wins. Even in this he was as always generous; we played for the beer at round’s end but if his team got ahead he would adjust the handicap to try and sustain the tension until the last hole or two.
It seems hard to believe that I will no longer open the door and see his smiling face, normally wearing shorts and T-shirt no matter what the weather. The Board will meet one more time in his honour as we had already booked the date. I am sure Charlie will be there in spirit. Rest in peace my good friend