Friday, January 13, 2017

Reflection: Remembering Franklin Delanor Lambert, Junior

As I sit down to write this post, I'm a little in shock. My mind is swirling with memories--laughter tears, and long, meaningful conversations that won't happen again on this side of eternity. Last night, I learned that one of my oldest friends, and one I had not seen in person for a very long time, died of a heart attack. He had just recently turned 43 years old.

Frank was a proud West Virginian and a proud Mountaineer. He had grown up in some of the hill country of West Virginia (Elkins), and had moved to some of the river country (Parkersburg) our senior year of high school. And while we both knew each other then, we really became good friends our freshman year of college at WVU on the basketball courts and in the residence halls.

Frank had a deep appreciation for music, and probably had the biggest music collection of anyone I have ever known. And he knew the music too--every album--he could tell you about the artist and explain the nuances of the songs. He was a huge fan of all kinds of music from Pearl Jam to Cyprus Hill and just about everything in between. Back in college we would spend hours listening to and talking about the latest albums, and he would be among the first to acquire them at the Discount Den in Morgantown.

Frank and his sister Angie introduced me to the Forest Festival in Elkins, and because of them, I have been able to introduce it to members of my own family as well. Frank was incredibly generous with his time and was always willing to help out a friend in need. When I was installed as a chief in my tribal community nearly 17 years ago, Frank was among a select few friends from outside my tribe who I was privileged to invite to our land and have him witness that historic moment. Frank was a history major in his undergrad too, and so there was something special about having this friend share in a piece of history.

I believe it was through Frank that I discovered just how close Pittsburgh was to Morgantown as he would invite a group of friends to travel with him to explore the city. I can remember many drives to Pittsburgh while we were in school. Frank also believed in being well-dressed. In fact, he and a couple of other friends took me on a "fashion emergency" trip (before it was a thing) because my wardrobe and style could "use some work." We definitely had a lot of awesome road trips together.

And wow, we could spend HOURS on the basketball court. We would play hoops outside til dark, or head to Stansbury Hall (the courts where Jerry West played) and shoot hoops until we got kicked out of the building. In fact, many times we would shoot hoops and then listen to tunes and talk about the games we played--we would even try to come up with creative plays. And actually, there was a time where me, Frank, and my roommate at the time (Andy) got invited to play in a prison by a dude we were playing who happened to be a prison guard at a supermax prison in Pennsylvania. That game was pretty unforgettable--everyone in the prison came out to watch the game with us "outsiders" and we got SMOKED--I think we lost by 30+ points. I have lots of great memories with Frank on the basketball court, and he was a strong athlete.

Frank was always willing to speak truth to me (and to anyone) whether it might hurt or not. He never did it out of malice, but always to help people be better human beings and better friends. I remember one occasion when I had told him that I was going to come to a cookout he was hosting, and as I was walking there I ran into two other groups of friends at two different times, and ended up not making it to the cookout. He called me out for not honoring my word. At the time it really stung because I really valued keeping my word (and I still do). He told me he knew that I had the intention of being there but that if I commit and I don't follow through it hurts people, and that it wasn't the first time I had done it and that he wasn't the only person I had done it to. He told me that other people understood my intentions were good, but that I was hurting my friends and friendships when I didn't follow through and honor my word. Frank made me, and everyone he met a better person.

We went through our share of hardships together. One of the foremost burned into my mind happened during 2006 and 2007. Frank's dad and my mom were both diagnosed with cancer. We would see each other at the hospital often as our parents were going through the last stages of their fights with cancer. And as Frank was watching his dad fight hard in a losing battle against cancer, he was also getting ready to marry the love of his life, Dena. I remember going to their wedding in Ohio, and all of the sadness and joy being swirled together. Frank lost his dad, and I lost my mom within days of each other. Loss is always hard, but enduring it as you are starting a new life with someone and adding to your family is a difficult path to walk. Frank always walked the path bravely though, in every area of life.

Frank was 43 years old. And now his wife, sister, and mom (and many others) are grieving his unexpected death. For my part, I had hoped that we might be able to connect the last time I was in Parkersburg--I was hoping he would be able to meet my daughter and wife. And learning news of his death makes me want to be even more committed to do everything I can to live as long as I can on this earth with Jamie and Sylvia. I know our time of departure from this life is not entirely up to us, but I want to do everything within my power to ensure that my choices are not limiting the quality and quantity of the time I have left.

May we each savor the moments and memories we have, and as we are able, make new ones to cherish and treasure in this life, and Frank, may you rest in peace my brother.


Tina said...

What a beautiful eulogy for a wonderful man who will be missed. Thank you for sharing this insight into a past co-worker who made his life about helping others.

Tina said...

What a beautiful eulogy for a wonderful man who will be missed. Thank you for sharing this insight into a past co-worker who made his life about helping others.

Judith Cohen, CPCC, MCC said...

Beautiful remembrance, Billy. May Frank's life always be a blessing to all who love him.