Last week, I took part in the third annual “Rickfast” in honor of the man for whom the #LiveLikeRick hashtag was created.
It is held every year the Saturday after Thanksgiving, in honor of Rick Stilwell, who passed away suddenly in January of 2013.
Rick was a great guy, a nice man who valued family and friends and fought to keep people connected. One of his best ways at connecting people, ironically was through social media, the very thing that seems to disconnect us from face-to-face contact these days.
But Rick also had a tradition: he’d invite his closest friends to breakfast every Saturday after Thanksgiving — a time when most people had returned to their hometowns from wherever they had subsequently moved to as they lived their lives — just to get together and spend time with each other.
Rick’s passing happened without any notice, during his commute to work. I learned of his death that day during my lunch hour when I scanned my Facebook feed and started seeing messages like, “I can’t believe this about Rick” and “You will be missed, Rick.” Finally I saw an “RIP Rick Stilwell,” and nearly fell out of my chair.
It was completely appropriate, I think, that I learned of Rick’s death on social media. Social media allowed Rick to stay in contact with friends, old and new. And I mean regular contact, not an occasional hello or a once-per-year Happy Birthday message on Facebook.
After his untimely passing, his friends decided to not only keep the tradition alive, but to expand the circle further. Rick was two years ahead of me in high school, and I knew his younger brother better than I knew him. But this year, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, his brother, Jeff, and I sat across from each other and caught up on old times and just spent time together, exactly what Rick loved helping people do.
Rick is not forgotten. I hope he never will be.