In 1992 I had the distinct honor of meeting and becoming friends with Joseph Rodney Evans. I’m not sure how we met, I know we met through mutual friends but what I didn’t realize was how much of a friend he would become to me.
Before I go on, I want to apologize to my dear Rodney, to Editor Man as I called him my senior year of high school: I apologize for the copious amounts of typos, incorrect grammar usage, and incorrect placement of punctuation. I never did learn how to do that right, sorry, Bud. To the rest of you, I apologize for the random quirk that will no doubt pop up in this post. Rodney would understand even if you don’t.
As we entered our Senior year at good old Enterprise High School, I went in with such a lack of confidence hidden under an easy laugh and stupid jokes. So much had changed for me between the end of my junior year and the beginning of my senior year; a lot of emotions and things that I was unable to process at the time. I’m not sure now, at 39, I’m any more equipped.
Rodney, as I knew him, became my best friend, my confidant, my Dear Abby, my big brother, my little brother, the guy who would go to extreme lengths to make me laugh. Being a ridiculously silly 17-/18-year-old girl I loved him “like a brother” (yes, go ahead and say that in a high-pitched Valley Girl voice). I didn’t fully realize just what an amazing person he was and how much he loved me, as he loved all his friends, until I was much, much older.
And so our senior year he listened patiently to all my boy angst, all my body angst, ALL my angst and ALWAYS had a really stupid joke at the ready to help me laugh; and beautiful words to remind me of my self-worth. I know I’m not the only one who benefited from his pure friendship. The people he called “friend” probably didn’t realize the extent of what that meant to him. We were not only his friends, but his second family.
What I know now that I wish I could make my 18-year-old self understand is just how precious that friendship was. What I didn’t know then, and probably something I continue to try to learn to this day, is the meaning of friendship. He knew what friendship was; true, pure friendship. He was totally unafraid to express his love for his friends. It was us – we were afraid of accepting his unconditional love. How stupid could we have been? Here was a REAL friend saying, “Hey guys, I LOVE you! You guys are amazing people! You guys are awesome!” and we were like, “Dude, ssshhh!” Stupid!
But I can hear Rodney now. He would say I should stop beating myself up; that yes, I was being stupid but did I learn from it? Okay then let’s keep going. Don’t forget I love you!
When I left for college he gave me a journal, “The Soul Sister’s Guide to Life After High School Or Rodney’s Reminders Or Towanda’s Fact Book Or Friends Always: Words from Editor Man”. The book is filled with his wisdom, his love, his really awful jokes, a book of him to take with me to school so I wouldn’t be afraid or lonely. This journal was the most beautiful gift I had been given. I might have thrown away all the letters and notes from those days but that journal is still with me.
Today I found out that my friend, my “Soul Brother” died. I knew I had to find that book. I walked in the door and said, “God, I need that book.” And there it was sitting on top of a box. I knew I had to find it because the messages in it, while written to me, was written about all of us, everyone he called a friend. There’s a tiny section that I’m not going to share because it’s, well, just between Rodney and I (I can hear him giggling). However, the rest of the book is not just about me. It’s written to all of us and I want to share that with you. I’ll post scans of the book, but for now I’ll leave you with this prayer he wrote:
Lord, You said that whoever asks for something in your name or where two or more shall agree, it will be done. Each night I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, that you guide and protect my friends throughout their lives. Lord, keep them company, and allow them to know the joy of love. And this I ask in your name, Amen.
Rodney, thank you. You were very greatly loved, even if I couldn’t show you. You will always make the Friendship part of my heart glow. Thank you for giving me the gift of being your friend. Forgive me for not being a better friend to you. But most of all, thank you for teaching me the meaning of friendship. I hope that I can do you justice, Sensei. I will be your Grasshopper until the end of time.