REJOICING IN THE MERITS OF RICHARD TEBBIT
Given at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre at a celebration for his life on the 2/7/08
Earlier this year, all of us in the Customer Services Team did a Myers Briggs personality test. Most of us turned out to be introverts, who needed our own quiet space in order to think,reflect and re-energise. Richard, however, as if we didn't already know, turned out to be an extrovert, not just a little, but hugely, an 89% extrovert. More than anyone else I've ever met, he needed communication, verbal interaction and conversation in order to work out what he felt or thought about things. Asking Richard to be silent, or be on his own for too long, would be like a form of purgatory for him.
It was this quality of extroversion that made him so effective in the Customer Services team. Though not everything in Customer Services worked for him, he had an strong aversion to maths, calculators or detailed admin, or anything that required applied concentration, he'd soon tire of. But answering phone calls, sorting out problems with couriers or despatch,he had an endless capacity for. Given the choice he preferred face to face contact to simply phoning someone. Myers Briggs defines an extrovert as someone who gains energy through their verbal interactions, and this was Richard to a tee. The busier the phones got the more he loved it, and consequently the more energy he found. As soon as the phones went quiet he quickly got bored and would start seeking out distractions. Well, if I'm honest, he'd start distracting everyone else in the team, with silly faces, noises, a series of wide open questions, provocatively designed statements, witty banter, and his dreadful, but often cleverly conceived jokes. His humour in full flow could tip over into more raucous, bawdy and occasionally rude remarks. Richard never liked it when I told him to stop, or that he couldn't go somewhere, or was not to do something. These were the only time when I saw Richard become angry, though later he'd always quietly and humbly come and apologise. Even though he could be quite unmanageable, he somehow remained intrinsically loveable. Richard would never allow anyone to leave thinking badly of him. He didn't make enemies, just friends. Richards presence was invariable bright and life affirming, and was thus always a delight to meet.
Richard was honest, about who he was, and how he was - and yes, we knew he wasn't always happy. Though this wasn't always visible to the casual encounter, he hid it so well behind his light-heartedness and good humour. This wasn't put on for our benefit, it was partly just how he was, whether he was struggling, or not. When he did open up about his difficulties, it never felt heavy, or burdensome or as if he was dumping his stuff on you. He never played the victim, he took full responsibility for himself and his actions. He'd be frank and direct,and say things that others wouldn't dare to, in communication he was brave and fearless, you knew where you stood with him. Richard was a man of the present moment, so what he said one day, he truly believed, even if the next day he'd fervently express an opposite opinion. So sure of what he felt in the moment, his actions could be impulsive, and take unnecessary risks, Only afterwards, in hindsight, did he realise he should have thought it through more thoroughly. But then that was Richard.
Over his four years at Windhorse I saw him become a more confident, well rounded and integrated individual. Though the process could be protracted. When he started to explore what his sexual orientation was, his position would seem to change daily. It was a bit like him trying on hats. One day he thought he was heterosexual, the next homosexual, the next bisexual, all the while his dress sense became ever more pink. In retrospect it was clear where this was taking him. Though at the time, I don't know who was more confused Richard or his friends. Such times of personal discovery, can throw up whopping big challenges, and Richard found he could meet them face on, even if he was unsure how far he should go in resolving them. It was quite a stormy brew of difficulties Richard had to conjure with in this life. As the condition of his disability worsened, he knew the potency of his increased levels of medication could very well rob him of his independence, which he'd fought so hard to achieve. I don't think any of us quite realise how stubborn, determined and courageous Richard had to be, every morning ,of every day. And though I regret the loss of his friendship,and him not being here, I do understand why he might want to give up the struggle.
Though I only knew Richard for a brief time. I have no bad memories, My recollections are all kind hearted. Richard never became so wrapped up in his own suffering, that he became blind to the suffering of others. He cared a lot for his friends, being very generous with his time and energy. He was a really lovely man and I am still missing his presence greatly.