This week I lost someone with whom I had a relationship for 33 years that was more sibling-like than nearly any other friendship I have had. It turns out you don't have to be related to someone by blood to feel bonded to them. I met Rick the first day of graduate school at Boston University and we bonded instantly over the injustice of being forced by the department chair to take a class called Contemporary Techniques. I complied; Rick defiantly told the chair, "I teach Contemporary Techniques at Berklee, I'm not going to take that class!" We suffered through Intro to Grad Studies together- the course work, NOT the professor. The professor was our beloved Joel Sheveloff; we also, along with every other student who had ever been to Boston University, were united in our love of Dr. Sheveloff.
We also bonded over our love of another professor we had in common, John Daverio. Rick and I and several other graduate students were taking a class on the music of J.S. Bach, and we boldly invited John to have a drink with us after class. I felt that I had finally found my "people"; musicians who loved music so passionately that after being in a two hour class we needed to continue the conversation long into the night.
John Daverio was one of a kind. There will never be another person like him. This eulogy is about my friend Rick, but it is also about John since my friendship with Rick was intertwined with my friendship with John. John Daverio was not only one of the most brilliant musical minds I had ever encountered, but he was also the most inspiring and engaging teacher any of us had ever had. When he agreed to come out with us that night after Bach class, I felt as if a celebrity had agreed to join us. John and I started playing chamber music together, and we gave four recitals of violin and piano music. Eventually he taught me how to make risotto. He taught me German (or tried to) and became one of my closest friends.
In March 2003, John disappeared. He didn't show up for a doctoral exam, something he undoubtedly had never done in his life. He was missing for a week. Then, when I heard on the news that a body had been found in the Charles River, I knew it was him. What happened remains a mystery to me. His death, because it feels so impossible, is unfathomable. I still grieve for him. But in a way, I always feel his presence. I frequently see his face on people I walk by on the street. And every time I enter a classroom to teach, I channel him- his perfect blend of knowledge, wisdom, and humor was how I learned to teach. I emulate him every day of my teaching life.
A year or so before John died, my ex-husband and I had a dinner party that John came to as well as Rick and his wife and a few other friends. You know it's a successful party when someone breaks out the Grove Dictionary of Music and starts doing dramatic readings. John wanted to have a late-night infomercial on TV for "Best Loved Antiphons". Rick thought we should have a festival celebrating Notker Balbulus. We were such geeks. It was wonderful.
This was part of the nature of my friendship with Rick. One of our favorite conversations was arguing about how to analyze various harmonies in certain Bach fugues. But we also had animated discussions about sports, religion, science, food. We were roommates for about 3 years, hosts of wild grad student parties featuring interpretive re-enactments of the original Rite of Spring choreography. When the Celtics won the championship in 1986, Rick encouraged me to smoke a cigar, which nearly made me throw up in the middle of a concert we went to afterwards.
We also had a brief falling out for a couple of years, which was absolutely precipitated by me being a jerk. I would do anything to go back in time to redo those two years. When I started teaching at Berklee I called him to patch things up, unsure of how that would be received. Rick, one of the kindest people I know, was happy to have me back. I am so grateful for that.
When I had gone through an especially horrible breakup, Rick and his wife Rosey made me come stay with them so they could help take care of my broken heart. They didn't have children, but they loved my child. Rick encouraged me to become involved with the Berklee Faculty Union; we experienced the wonder and boredom of contract negotiations together. Rick was my office mate and my confidante, and ultimately someone whom I was so close to, I took it for granted.
Four years ago, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer and given 12-24 months to live. Having an indomitable spirit, and brilliant doctors, he impressed everyone around him with his resilience and persistence. Whenever I felt terrified about the possibility of him dying, I would call him up. Hearing his voice, hearing him be himself always gave me great comfort. I had convinced myself that he would live to very old age, managing the cancer as a chronic disease.
That was a fantasy; a few weeks ago, his body had decided that it had had enough, and Rick spent the next 12 days dying. I have been thinking a great deal about the nature of grief and mourning. Rick was in terrible pain at the end, and his death was mercifully peaceful. Mourning, in that context feels terribly selfish. I am trying to convince myself that the end of his suffering is something to be grateful for. But I don't feel the gratitude yet. All I feel is a deep sense of loss and regret.
When I was 7, my 5-year old brother was killed when he ran in front of a furniture truck. I remember vividly how I felt the morning after. Nothing looked the same. I felt, not like a ton of brick had fallen on me, but more like I was trapped under something unyielding. When I woke up yesterday morning- the day after Rick died- I felt exactly the same way. And I am trying to remember how I got out of it, when I started to feel better, when things started to look normal again. I know that time passing will ease the pain of all of us who loved him. But it's not possible to be aware of the potential of that time passing when you are at the beginning of the process.
Yesterday I sat down at the piano to play the Prelude from Bach's English Suite in F major, something I do every single day. All of a sudden, my Wonder Woman action figure (that's another story) flew off my piano and landed on the keys while I was playing. I realized why grieving people want so badly to believe in an afterlife. The thought that somehow Rick's spirit had sent Wonder Woman crashing down off the top of the piano gave me a great sense of relief. Of course, being a rational person, I know that when a person is gone, they are really gone. And Rick would have thought the idea that he could throw Wonder Woman at me from the great beyond completely preposterous. "Martini," he would have said, "that's just silly." And, that's precisely why I miss him so much.