I don’t know which of these “coincidences” are strangest. You can decide for yourselves.
This morning, I decided to repost two memorabilias of my past excursions. They just stood out to me; while I was scrolling down my facebook wall and looking at the sequence of events that had taken place in my life. The first was an article that I wrote when I was in South Korea. I wanted my friends to remember that. Then just above it was a photo I had taken in Mexico- another very important trip in my life. So I reposted it on my wall again for friends to remember. It’s been about six to seven years since those experiences took place. The photo of Mexico caught my attention, so I stared at it for a moment. I see I was sitting around a table at a cafe with three others. Richard Berg was one of the persons sitting next to me. I hadn’t spoken to him in years! In 2009 we made contact through facebook. Our last few words were words of encouragement to each other, though those words seemed to have been forgotten with time, at least for me. I decided I missed him and was now very curious about his whereabouts. I had never met anyone who travelled and lived away from home as much as he had. When we communicated on facebook, he wrote that he was “going off to see the wizard”…(in my mind I was thinking…yet again). This time he was going to Cambodia, Bali, “then Borneo to play with orangutans. After that it’s off to the Philippines for a month of scuba diving with friends from the states who will be on holiday. I’m not sure when I’ll return to the western world, I do like it over here and it’s such a different cultural experience. Still to come are Indonesia, another trip to Myanmar, maybe India and China, and Australia. It appears one could spend a few years just exploring Indonesia due to the number of islands.” That was part of the message he had sent to me through facebook.
When I arrived in Mexico he had already been there for months. We met at the University of Guadalajara at the language Institute, called CEPE. I can’t exactly recall what the acronyms stood for. Richard was sitting in the beginner class with me and a total of eight others, all from different parts of the world. Two were from Japan, another from Germany, a woman who migrated from Arizona to live with her Latino husband, another from St. Vincent, another from Settle, and me, from Canada. All of us knew English (for the most part) and were now immersing in the Spanish language. I remember that it was a beautiful school, but the good experiences we had all happened outside those classroom doors. At the beginning when most of us didn’t know anything, Richard was our source of knowledge.
All those memories flashed through my head as my eyes were still fixed on the photo. I suddenly had this desire to contact him and to see if he was still in Cambodia. I found him on facebook, and lo and behold he had a similar photo as the one I was looking at. “Wow, Richard, where did you dig this one up”. I clicked on the photo which was used for his profile picture, fascinated that it was a picture of the same day in Mexico. In the photo I see my hands gripping my mouth to cover up laughter as I stare at Richard, who was standing tall in front of me, and all five of the others are in the photo laughing too, though looking in different directions. I’m curious about what had everyone laughing- it was one of those captured memories (but the memory of the event may be lost forever). Could this be just a coincidence that he had a similar photo up. According to facebook, it had been up since 2010. I browsed through his latest photos and decided to write something under one of them, “you’ve been there for a while”. I wrote noticing that he was still in Cambodia after all these years. Not expecting any responses as I had no idea what time zone he was in. Suddenly a response came back anyway, “Shauna, Richard passed away last year”.
What a devastating, unexpecting news to hear. Dead? Yes I know people eventually die but not those I know. Richard, the explorer shouldn’t have died yet. Not when I hadn’t spoken to him in a while. Not when I still needed to live vicariously through one who knows what it means to live in a dream. He’s dead? Nobody dies in my life. The possibility of someone you’re fond of can actually be removed from your life, has happened to me? What does this stranger mean..he’s gone. Where? And then I examined the two photos I now have of Richard in Mexico, again. The only time I knew him. “It’s like he wanted you to know” this stranger said. I realized I missed him. How could someone I briefly met caused me to be so emotional? Why are tears streaming down my cheeks? Why do I suddenly feel so sad? “I got another tattoo” He said in one of his messages. My eyes are drenched with tears and I’m hollering and I can’t stop. I’m grieving what seem like a total stranger. But he must have impacted my life in some ways, ways I haven’t stopped to think about, until now.
I reexamined his entire facebook to see how many times I tried to communicate with him- a total of two times. One article I left on his wall was called. “Dreams, are they for kids?”. He replied to say thank you for that article and ended his very long message by telling me “I wish that all your dreams come true and life is always great to you”. The last message he ever wrote to me. My response, he may have never seen.
I’m left weeping for his loss. It’s been one year and 2 weeks since his passing, and I’m just finding out. But the last messages that we exchanged, encouraged me. Even the final message I wrote to him, (the one he probably didn’t read) seems to be an inspiration to me.
Thanks for that lovely update Richard! Ever since I went to South Korea, I’ve been thinking about writing a travel book. I’m just imagining how much you could have contributed with all your trips alone. I want to suggest a project we could do together but I can’t see how it would be possible- at this moment. Maybe it’s something to consider after you complete all the things on your travel list.. whatcha think?
I hope that your experiences will be amazing and memorable- wouldn’t you like to tell the world how you did it?
Goodbye Richard Berg. It was nice to have met you. Had I known your leaving this earth would have impacted me the way it had, I would have tried to spend more time with you whether in person or otherwise. Thanks for your time anyway and your kind words. Take care.