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On the Loss of a Friend

Updated: Jan 30

Ralph Ezovski and I became friends at age 11 while playing baseball in the Boys Club summer league. Our friendship would carry us until Ralph's death at age 67 on January 26th. Ralph was a loving family man, great friend, army veteran, retired police lieutenant, head of the statewide police union. He graduated from Law School and was adjunct faculty.

In sum, Ralph accomplished much in his 67 years. Those of us fortunate enough to call Ralph a friend, know that he was a great one. Clyde, another childhood friend said it well, 'Ralph's heart was built to serve'. True.

Joe, another lifelong friend, remarked that 'anyone who knew Ralph has stories to tell'. Here's one of mine: I served as a pastor for 40 years. On visits to my home state of Rhode Island, in the company of Clyde, our mutual buddy, I'd stop by to catch a Bruins game at the American Legion bar, which Ralph managed after retiring from the police.

Kent (left) with Ralph at the Legion (photo by Clyde Haworth)

There Ralph gathered a diverse mix of humanity ... veterans, police officers (retired and current), mixed in with those once arrested and now befriended by Ralph. If you were a regular, you were given a nickname, often politically incorrect. At that bar people felt seen and apart from the good natured ribbing, respected.

More than once I mentioned to Ralph, that what he had created at that bar, was what the church strives to be, and doesn't always succeed at. A place of acceptance and caring. Our friend Ralph had an ability to see the good in people. Somehow, he had a heart for and understanding of the human condition, with all the wounds and brokenness that we each carry.

No one would mistake the Legion Hall for a health club. It was (and is) however, a place to watch the game, have a good conversation, a drink or two and enjoy a cigar (after the bar has officially closed). Overseeing all this, was Ralph.

Now he is no longer with us.

I am left with two emotions. Sadness and joy. One to be expected. It is joy which surprises me. How can one feel a deep sadness and joy at the same time? David Whyte, the Irish poet - philosopher offers this:

If joy is a deep form of love, it is also the raw engagement with the passing seasonality of existence, the fleeting presence of those we love understood as gift, the going in and out of our lives of faces, voices, memory, aromas of the first spring day or a wood fire in winter; the last breath of a dying parent/friend as they create a rare, raw, beautiful frontier between loving presence and a new and blossoming absence."

Whyte reflects what we all must experience. Our 'raw engagement with the passing seasonality of existence, the fleeting presence of those we love understood as gift.' ... What are the names of those no longer living, which you carry close to your heart? What emotions arise as you think of those who once graced your life?

The joy I feel is rooted in having Ralph as a friend for 56 years. Such a gift. The joy of seeing my childhood friend grow up to serve as a police officer, who never lost his passion for justice and capacity for compassion. The joy of seeing him love his family. Joy of listening as Ralph spun a good story. Joy at his irreverent humor. Joy in his ease, in saying what so many men struggle to say to one another, 'I love you.'

Ralph, you loved us well. We are forever in your debt. God bless you and all those you loved.

With you on the journey ~ Kent Harrop

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