In Loving Memory of Richard Abbott
12/12/12, Wednesday, it’s a bit chilly in Houston, Texas, though sun still shines.
Around 9am, I dressed all in black to meet my Dynegy friends in downtown. We all carried heavy hearts to attend the funeral of our coworker and friend, Richard Abbott.
I knew Richard about 15 years ago, when I worked at Service Corporation International (SCI) as a database developer in 1997. He was my manager for our small group, consisting Skip, Colleen, Sarah and a few others. He was tall, fit, handsome, very nice and yet very professional. I was a new graduate and learned a lot from him. We worked on a project called Horizon. Many former SCIs still remember this project. In 1999, I left SCI to pursue a better opportunity at Imperial Sugar company, and he left SCI as well.
We didn’t keep in touch for quite a while, in fact for 8 years. All the social network back then wasn’t very popular, or not even created. In 2007, when I was interviewed at Dynegy, someone saw my resume with SCI and asked if I knew Richard, memories flashed back and I answered that I remembered him. He then worked for Dynegy for a few years already and I was hired on Nov. 2007. We happily reunioned and got the chance to work in the same IT group.
He was tired of managing people, so he became a PeopleSoft developer. As a newcomer to Dynegy, I didn’t know many people so I came to him a lot, to ask everything. He was still as nice as before, even nicer. Interesting enough, after some office rearrangements, Richard and I became cubical-mate. We worked back-to-back, then turned around chairs face-to-face chat, across narrow aisle.
During that cubical-mate time, we often challenged each other’s memory by asking a former coworker’s name or story at SCI. Then we talked about my young kids, his grownup kids including a twin; he liked doing handyman work at home; I was surprised to hear that he was a huge fan of Teresa Deng(邓丽君). Even though he couldn’t understand the Chinese lyrics, he liked her sweet face and voice and rhythm, when he told me his wife thought he was crazy about Teresa, he smiled like a shy boy. Richard visited China before with his parents when he was quite young, often showing his interest in Chinese culture, and so I taught him basic Chinese such as: Ni Hao (hello) and Xie Xie (thanks). Ever since I knew he liked Teresa, I always wanted to give him Teresa’s DVD as a gift, but I never did, and now I never can.
When I worked at Dynegy, I helped organized an IT Wii tennis tournament, and a Ping Pong tournament. Richard and I played in the same Wii tennis team, and although we didn’t place, we had lots of fun together, practicing and competing. He played a Ping pong match, too. He even participated weight loss program and won the 1st place (I thought he was fit enough, no need for any weight loss).
Since Richard and I were born in the same month, the month of June, we once celebrated birthday together with Diane and Malka, whose birthdays were in June as well. We went to Pappa’s BBQ on the Smith street, eating, talking and laughing and we would love to do it again, but we can’t anymore.
Most of time, we talked about work, and sometimes I was stressed and when I complained to him, he often found a way to let me see things in a different angle. He rarely complained about anything, always willing to help others.
In 2010, his mom, who was over 80 years old, became quite ill. He constantly took time off to take care of her, for she was in and out of hospital quite often. He tried to explain to me how the medical system worked for elderly patients admitted to hospital and nursing home, but I never really understood. His mom passed away that year. To me, he was a very decent and responsible person to take care his mom until she went to Heaven.
One thing I will never forget:
It was a weekday morning in 2008, and I was at work in Downtown, Houston. I had my breakfast and focused on a project. Suddenly I felt very dizzy and cramped in my stomach , and I knew it was my low blood pressure, and I was about to fade. I turned my chair and whispered to Richard: “Richard, I don’t feel well. I need to lie down right away.” Richard heard me and came to my side. He knelt over and looked at me and asked:”Ning, are you okay? Do I need to call 911?” I shook my head, “No, my blood pressure is just low. I just need to lie down.” He and another co-worker Anh, carried me to the nursing room, which was at 60th floor, one floor down.
The nursing room was very simple, consisting of just one bed, one table and two chairs. They arranged me on the bed, then Anh went out to get a drink for me and to find my manager Lenny. There was only Richard and me left in the room. The door was automatically closed, and the room had lights on and was very bright to me. My legs were raised higher than my head to let blood flew to my upper body and brain. There wasn’t any blanket to cover me, only a white sheet. When I tried to pull the white sheet up to cover my head so I wouldn’t see the bright light, Richard stopped me: “Don’t do that, it’s not your time yet.” I appreciated his humor and went on resting. Richard sat besides me all the time, making sure I was not asleep. It was a white room, white bed, white sheet, silence, breathing. Richard watched me like an old brother. Maybe 20-25 minutes later, Anh came back with more helpers. I was escorted home later on that morning.
When I recovered and went back to work, I thanked him. He said I scared him and that he didn’t want to leave me alone in that nursing room, not even for one minute. I was so touched by his words and I will always remember that he was by my side when I was at lowest valley of my life at that time. I promised to myself I would be at his side IF anything happened to him.
I left Dynegy Jan. 2011 to pursue another adventure at El Paso Company and he was diagnosed cancer summer that year. Again, I didn’t keep my promise and during his almost 18 month long treatment time, I never visited him. I felt very bad about myself. A new job was not an excuse, being busy was not an excuse…subconsciously, I believed that he could defeat cancer and come back. I sent him an email two months ago, he responded the next day which was 10/9/2012, with quite positive attitude. Cancer can eat out his flesh, even his emotion, but cannot touch his spirit.
Still he didn’t make it. He passed away on 12/8/2012, at age of 59.
The funeral was short, “It is not the length of life, but the depth of life”. The program “Come With Me” was simple:
“God saw he was getting tired and the cure was not to be. So He put his arms around him and whispered, “Come with me”. With tearful hearts, we watched him fade away. Although we loved him dearly, we could not make him stay. A golden heart stopped beating, hard working hands to rest. God broke our hearts to prove to us, He only takes the best.”
I don’t go to church but what was said above comforted me a lot.
I am really blessed to know Richard as a manager, a coworker, a dad, a son…a wonderful friend, I will always remember him in the loving memory, and may he rest in peace in Heaven.
12/12/12 with tears in Sugar Land, TX