This was our gang, a rag-tag group of rowdy kids. That’s me, the little squirt kneeling in the front row, and that’s Randy in the red and white baseball tee. Somehow our cohorts Laura, Dani and Bret didn’t end up in this picture.
We were a group of neighborhood kids who grew up together, played hide and seek and tag and kickball in the street. But more often that not, we were up to some kind of highjinks, and Randy was always the ringleader.
For instance, one night ( back then we were always out running the streets at night, a different era I guess) we wanted to see if we could stop a car with our sheer strength. So we laid a rope down across the street, then waited for a car – several of us on each side of the street, hiding. When the car came, Randy yelled “PULL!” and we each pulled our end of the rope like a tug of war game. Of course it ended in the car screeching to a stop as someone’s dad jumped out of the car threatening to tan our hides while we all scrambled off into the bushes.
Randy was an imp, a feisty kid who was good at sports and no matter what we did, he was always the team captain. Every day he would challenge Laura, a sweet, shy girl, to “Punch me in the stomach as hard as you can!” He walloped Dani upside the head one day and she turned him in to the principal- which caused a rift they would laugh about years later.
Randy and I just happened to have the same last name (Holmes) so we always ended up sitting next to each other at every assembly, and later, in home rooms.
As we grew up, Randy and I lost contact. He went off to play football for a different High School, and ended up moving to Texas. Through the miracle of facebook, we reconnected a few years ago. What fun we had retelling the zany stories from “back in the day”. Later, we got into real conversations about life, our families, our kids, and I got to know Randy in a way I hadn’t before.
He was married to the love of his life, Sarah, and they’d had two great kids, Katie and Riley. Riley was a football player, just like his dad, heading off to college, Katie still in High school.
Randy, a true Texas conservative since leaving L.A., would razz me on facebook about my love for President Obama- but always in good fun- the same kind of ribbing he delivered as a kid. He liked to tease, but always with a good heart. He truly had a good heart. He followed my blog, and would write to tell me when a particular post had inspired him.
One day in 2010, Randy wrote to tell me that his wife Sarah had been diagnosed with cancer, but they were fighting. He and Riley shaved their heads in solidarity as she underwent chemo treatments. Sarah kept a blog about her experience and I became one of her loyal readers, always commenting, sending prayers. Randy was so happy in 2011 when he wrote to tell me Sarah was declared cancer free.
Last July, when we got the contract for Dancing at the Shame Prom, this is what Randy wrote me:
Congrats on your contract. You are proof that hanging tough pays off. Don’t abandon your memoir, the market will come around, and you will become famous, and people will want to learn more about you. I have to say that you inspired me – all the hardships overcome. While we were children I had no idea. Now, your life is clearly blessed. As is mine. Sarah was just declared cancer free for the second time! I have learned a lot from her perseverance, fighting, being strong, and being positive… she and you have a lot in common in that regard. Keep following your dreams, love the family, and don’t let anybody get in your way.
A few months ago, Dani was in Austin on a business trip and made plans to hang out with Randy and Sarah. When Randy came to pick Dani up at her hotel, he told her they’d gotten some awful news that day – Sarah’s cancer had come back, and she’d been given three months to live. Randy still wanted Dani to come over, Sarah really wanted to meet her and especially to hear stories about Randy’s childhood. Dani said, in spite of the circumstance, they laughed and told stories and had the best time that night and that Sarah was a great woman, a bright light. Dani planned to return to Austin this Summer, and prayed Sarah would still be around.
Dani and I made a pact that we would be there for Randy when Sarah passed- we were, after all, a touchstone for him.
A few weeks ago, I got a message from a family friend on Sarah’s blog that Sarah was close to the end. Yesterday, when I saw another email from this same person, my stomach tensed as I steeled myself against what I assumed would be the news of Sarah’s passing.
What I did not expect was to hear that Randy had passed away the night before, as Sarah lay dying in her hospital bed.
My eyes filled with tears, my mind spun in panic. Did I read that right?
I had to have my husband come and read the email, to make sure I wasn’t in shock. He confirmed it. Sarah was still clinging to life in a hospital. Randy had passed away.
Dani, Laura and I got on the phone, all of us in tears, in shock. How could this be? Inside, we still feel like we’re just that gang of neighborhood kids. How could one of us be gone?
My mind has reached the only conclusion it could: Randy could not live without his Sarah. I wish I could make sense of this. My heart aches for Katie and Riley – much too young to be without both their parents. I wish there were something we could do to ease their overwhelming loss. I hope they will read this and know what their dad meant to a group of neighborhood kids, long, long ago, in a life so far away.
A few months, ago, when Sarah got really, really sick, Randy stopped writing. He was trying every last ditch effort to save Sarah, experimental treatments…anything.
This was the last exchange we had:
Just want you to know I am thinking of you and your family and praying for you. I am so sorry for how hard life has been on you all. I wish there were something I could do.
Thank you, Hollye. Just keep sending the love. Sarah is amazingly strong and positive. She truly inspires me. We will get through this. We had a great visit with Dani last Friday, (I got her a little drunk on merlot, but she wont admit it). I look forward to seeing all the Rhoda street crowd.
All the Rhoda street crowd misses you, Randy. We will always remember your crazy antics, and your deep love for your family. We will continue to pray for Riley and Katie, and for Sarah as she makes her way to you.
We salute you Randy, for all the fun memories you left us. I hope you are creating mischief and poking fun up in Heaven as you await your beloved Sarah.
Rest in peace, my friend.
|Randy Holmes on right, Charles Holt blowing bubble, Lori Silverman with her arm around me, Beverly Nelson Peters poking her head out behind us. Vonda Shepard in front, Sherri Lamanuzzi back row.|
Hollye, that was beautifully written. It made me remember all the kids who grew up on my street and the crazy things we did together and how tragically life can turn out for some people. One of my neighborhood friends just passed away last year. He was a homeless man, alcoholic and in need of a liver transplant. It broke my heart. I will keep your friends in prayer, those poor, poor children. 🙁
Thank you Debbie. Randy and Sarah will soon be together, but those kids certainly will need all the prayers they can get. I just can't imagine a worse hell.
May God bless them.
oh, hollye, you are all about love. i have never in my life met anyone ANYONE who speaks of love and writes of love the way you do. love lost, love found, love spoken, love….
you are pure love.
our friends andy & kathy died one day apart from each other two years ago. they had 3 young kids. because they loved so deeply, so profoundly, so passionately their children have not only survived but are the manifestation of their love. the kids are thriving. they miss their folks terribly, but they're strong & filled with grand passion. i suspect randy & sarah's kids will do the same.
i love you so.
Angel-friend. Thank you.
and I am so glad to hear that your friends children are thriving. I'm not worried about Randy and Sarah- i just know they are together. My heart hurts for Riley and Katie.
Thank you for your beautiful words, as always.
I love you Miss Amy.
I have heard legends of two souls who were once one, and, once they find one another again, they can never bear the separation. Perhaps your beautiful Randy and his beloved Sarah were just that. Buckminster Fuller and his wife passed like that. Beautiful souls like that are most often surrounded by angels, and those angels will ensure that their children will land in a featherbed of love. It will hurt forever, but their joy at having had such parents will come to the fore in time. Thank you so much for sharing…
From your mouth to God's ears, Nana Mouse. May those children be surrounded by angels all their lives. I think of their wedding days, the births of their first children, and how hard it will be to not have their parents. I pray Randy and Sarah will be watching over them.
Thank you for reading and for reaching out.
Hollye, we knew Randy and Sarah because Riley and our son Matt grew up together. They went to school together. They were in after-school care together. But, most importantly, they played baseball together. It was such fun watching their triumphs and defeats over the years. Riley is an awesome, big-bodied, big-hearted, freckle-faced kid; the perfect blend of Randy and Sarah. He's probably very much like the boy you knew growing up.
— Paula McHale from Austin, Texas
so nice to hear from you. I spoke with Riley yesterday- what a wonderful young man he is. One can immediately tell he was raised right, and raised with love. May that love strengthen him and Katie as they make their way.
This is a wonderful tribute to your childhood friend. Thank you for sharing it with us…
Thank you so much Dolores. I wish I didn't have to write it, but am glad to share it.