If you haven't already heard, Richard Jeni passed away this weekend from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Most of us remember his warm heart and hilarious performance during my ComedyChemo Benefit at the Key Club. I was ten minutes from home and on the phone with Colleen, who was checking news online, when she suddenly told me to pull over. The news tore us both apart. I couldn't stop crying. I kept kicking the steering wheel. WHY?!
Four years, four months and four days before he was pronounced dead, Richard Jeni and I were backstage at the Key Club and shared a conversation about how fragile and fleeting life is. He asked about my prognosis and I revealed how scared I was because I had less than a 50% chance to be alive five years from that very night. He put his arm around me and didn't say a thing. Not one funny thing. It was exactly what I needed. Then I remember hearing the surreal thunder of people chanting my name, wanting me to come out on stage. I want to remember Richard smiling and saying, "Hear that? All those people out there love you and are praying for you." At that moment I just knew that only good could come out of my situation, no matter what the outcome. Ever since that night, I've wanted to send Richard a bouquet of flowers to show how much that moment meant to me. The thank you card I sent just didn't feel like enough. But life happens and you just don't get around to it.
The fact that such an accomplished and sought after comedian would give up an evening of his precious time to help a stranger in need, goes to show you what a wonderful human being Richard Jeni was. His observations on life, love and
relationships were not just funny, they were genuine. At this point, I am still in disbelief that someone so aware of life could take his own.
We are loved more than we know. Sometimes loved more than we can handle. Yet we've all felt that despair. That dark, excruciatingly lonely, insomniacal late-night quagmire when you wish your bed would just swallow you up and be done with it. But as Anne Lamott said "Hope begins in the dark". It's the only place that it can.
We're all just trying to make sense of it all. Trying to find the meaning behind the purpose. The only answer that makes sense to me is found in a fleeting moment. Not in philosophy, fate, science nor religion. Not in words. The answer is fiery and visceral. It is being touched by God.
The awe that swells the heart when you cradle a newborn.
The wonder that possesses as you fathom and peer into the Milky Way.
The gasp you utter as a hummingbird peruses your face.
The shout you can't control when a humpback whale leaps for the sky.
The glee of seeing winter's first snow.
That "YES!!" feeling when you hit your mark.
The peace within, watching campfire sparks waft into night
The rush of mad ravenous pulsations when you both finally kiss
The newness inside when someone says, "I love you"
In other words, the answer breathes in you in the moments when you feel most alive.
I'm finally going to send the flowers I've always meant to. You never think that there will ever be a day when it will be too late.
Richard Jeni. You will be missed.