[Editor’s Note: An open letter to my friend and mentor, Ted Caddell, who died suddenly in March.]
Do you remember the time you rewrote my favorite crime lead? I remember like it was yesterday, and it still annoys me to admit your way was better. It was always like that, wasn’t it? You seemed to know just the right way to approach something, and I was behind you kicking, screaming and being the Jersey Girl I am. You never let frustration get in the way of the lesson, though, and for that I am forever grateful.
I am not sure even you could help me now, though. Your loss is epic for me; least because it was sudden. You were a larger-than-life force in my world yet humble; a brilliant wordsmith whose genius will never be seen again. You were my mentor; my friend; my champion and my compass. My heart is broken.
If you were still here, I’d ask you ‘how do I boil down more than 20 years of knowing you into something understandable?' How does anyone process losing a mentor and a friend? There is no doubt, you’d have an answer. Not the bullshit, feel-good crap people offer but the salty, earthy harsh truth. “Sometimes, kid, they don’t but you will. You’ll be fine. Just breath.” I can hear you say that like you’re sitting next to me. Never liked when you called me kid but I’d take it today without sass.
Are your ears ringing?
We’re storytellers – you and me. I’ve been telling a lot of stories about you in the 144 hours since I learned of your death. My favorite – one I hadn’t thought about in a long time – was when we realized that we had known each other before we worked together. It all started when I mentioned Betty. You asked, “How do you know Betty?”
I told you she was my contact at the electric company and mentioned there also some guy that filled in for her. “I am that guy,” you declared. “No, his name began with a T,” I replied. There’s that incredulous look – one I will never forget, “My name begins with a T.” I don’t think we stopped laughing for weeks.
You know I could wax on with stories about you for some time. Telling them make me feel better for a little while but then the sadness comes back. I know that’s not what you want for me but this is a hard loss. Your death has left a crater-size hole (and even that isn’t big enough) in my universe.
My memory is long – very long and the equivalent to an elephant’s. We joked about that right before you died – do you remember? Of all the things – and there are too many to include here – I am going to miss:
Your salty, grumpy old-man persona that masked the honorable, good guy you truly were.
Your nurturing of my natural curiosity about anything and everything.
Your willingness to support me no matter what path I decided to travel.
Your smile and your laugh.
Your selfies from Starbucks.
Your sharp-wit; thoughtful and truthful insights; dark sense of humor, and your talent. In essence, you.
You’re going to love what I am about to say next: you’re right, I will get through this. Your death blindsided me but knowing you prepared me for life. See, you didn’t just teach me a craft; you taught me about life in that languid way of yours. I believe as long as we continue to speak with and about the dead, they never die. For me, your legacy will live on in all the lessons; laughter, stories; and in those I choose to share our funny, wonderful memories.
I wish it wasn’t time to go but it is. A final thought – for now – can you imagine what we can accomplish now that one of us has wings? Yeah, I am surprised, too. LOL. God speed, my friend. You are missed.