Portrait of Woody
by Mary Rives
Woody was a caring, creative man with an inquisitive, contemplative mind, and a gentle, playful and kind spirit. He had a precious and contagious cackling laugh, and an uncanny ability to help others to watershed petty grievances and life stressors, rising above their judgments of others. Most of all, he was a devoted friend and mentor, deeply touching many lives in myriad and thoughtful ways. Some of Woody's trademarks were his delightful laugh, his brilliant mind, his amazing ability to actively listen, his intense desire to not succumb to rampant consumerism, being an avid animal lover, making people feel happy, and his sincere interest in others. His ability to relate and be of assistance to people of all ages and walks of life has inspired many of his friends and family members to emulate him in the various ways that we live our lives.
Woody was an enthusiastic nature lover, balancing social time with time in the great outdoors, often seeking inner peace by climbing a mountain, camping deep in the forest, walking in silent meditation with a close friend, or running off into a beautiful sunset -- often with our dog Sparkey at his side. With Woody being like a brother to me - to us - he was the one and only honorary uncle to our son, Rene. He was a best friend, an intimate part of our family, and a lifelong devoted companion.
Woody's intellect and genuine interest in others shined in how he interacted with children, the elderly, teenagers, friends, and strangers. His unique and creative brilliance manifested through his writing, colorful drawings, and in the puzzles and mazes, riddles, treasure hunts, maps and homemade games he created for our son over a span of 15 years. Woody thrived on natural highs from good clean fun. He did not use drugs, not so much as a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. He loathed smoke of any kind; he did not believe in distorting the mind; he practiced meditation with the aim of clarifying his mind, refining and enhancing his impact on this world. At parties, he was never the one to have a beer in order to have fun; rather, he was always the one to initiate dancing or playing charades - two of Woody's favorite things - and he was darn good at them too, and at helping to bring out those who felt too shy or inept to participate. Woody always had a special knack for making people feel good about themselves to such an extent that they'd stretch beyond their limitations. This was one of Woody's special gifts and the world is truly a grayer place without him.
Woody had the courage to follow his heart and honor his deeper nature, his inner callings. He was determined to follow his own path in life, which allowed him to embrace life with an adventurous spirit and a determination to live a more environmentally low- impact lifestyle. By doing so, he had more of himself to give. As any of us would attest to you, Woody was incredibly generous with his time, his attention. He would slow us down; help us to take a long deep breath from the hustle and bustle of modern life. He created his own communities of friends in various New England states to whom he was loyal over the years, while avidly making new friendships and connections wherever he fared. Wherever he would live or visit, if there was a friend in need, Woody would respond to the call. He was always there for us, with us, and we counted on him being around, as did the many children and teens he played and worked with. So many kids loved him and looked forward to being with him, kids whose lives he was positively influencing, kids who have been tragically robbed of more time with him. Woody figured prominently in our family's long-term plans, and now, sadly, we must move on without him.
The impact of Woody's death continues to affect the whole community. It is not just the loss of one person; it is the loss of all the potential goodness that many people would have felt if Woody had lived. It is a symbolic loss; disheartening and ignoble; needless and tragic; the kind of loss that makes one question the meaning of life when it can be cut short by knee-jerk reactions of violence and fear -- especially by those whose job it is to serve and protect our communities.
In his hour of need, as he pleaded and wept for help, Woody deserved better, he deserved to live. At the very least, he could have been allowed to have died with dignity and to have had his basic human rights respected, without inhumanely prolonged and preventable suffering, The men responsible for the needless loss of Woody's precious life are thus far free from any and all accountability by a system steeped too deeply in fear and denial to take a stand and do the right thing. It is not too late for justice to be given the chance that has been so unconscionably denied.