Richard Wagamese: In Memory
So many tears have flowed since hearing my good friend Richard Wagamese passed away a week ago today. I haven't had the strength to write about it as the news really took the rug out from under me. He was a very special person to all of us at Keynote Speakers Canada. We had so much more than a business relationship; he was our friend and we were very close.
I remember the first time we met I was picking him up to take him to our first speaking engagement together. He had explained he didn't use notes and spoke from the heart. To be honest, he worried me a little as having a speaker "wing it" doesn't usually go over very well! I had to see him for myself. He insisted I sit in the front row and then he started speaking. Before long I was captivated and tears started to roll down my cheeks....not a good thing when sitting in the front row but I looked around and realized everyone was feeling the same way. He was truly an amazing storyteller and had the power to move us to feel so many emotions. It would be one of many standing ovation speeches that I would witness.
Each speech would teach me more about his life and our Canadian history with First Nation communities. How he touched every audience is why I started calling him Richard the Great or RTG. He loved that! But it was our conversations over burgers after his keynotes that made us friends for life. He loved his music and owned 6 guitars that he loved to play. He insisted on visiting record stores to buy new albums every time he was in the city and these visits were riddled with laughter.
Richard was so darn funny and so clever. When Lisa and I went to visit with Richard in January of this year, we sat with him in his living room reading passages from his book Embers. He acknowledged both of us in this book which was a huge honour for both Lisa and I. It was an amazing night and Richard joked after a particularly fabulous passage saying "Man, that guy can write" . ... we all laughed and nodded... yes he sure could.
He generously mentored so many aspiring writers and had a special place in his heart for young First Nation writers. He opened the minds of so many students when he spoke at schools. His book Indian Horse is being made into a movie to be released hopefully this year. This movie and the fact that his books are now a part of school curriculum in Canada means Richard's legacy as a voice for literacy and truth and reconciliation will continue to be heard for many years to come and I find some comfort in this fact. Rest in peace beautiful soul.