Remembering Deb Riker
A fast swimmer and lovely person
I was asked if I would write something about a very dear friend of mine who just lost her battle with cancer on February 15, 2003. This is about Debra Riker who was a USMS swimmer. For those of you who never got to meet her, you lost out. On her 40th birthday last year, she found out that she had a brain tumor.
I went to the hospital the day she was admitted to be with her and find out what was going on. The reason she went to the hospital was that for a few months, she was having headaches that were getting worse. So after she missed Monday morning's practice, I called her and she said the headaches were getting worse.
I told her to go to the hospital. She did. Then I got a call that I better come. I did.
The first hardest thing I ever had to do was call her family. I started with her sisters—Nancy, her twin, and Kim, the youngest. I had to tell them over the phone what was wrong with their sister and my friend. Deb has a wonderful family; her dad, Don, and mom, Pat, stepmom, Darleen and two step-brothers, whom I never got to meet.
What a year it has to have been for them. You want to talk about support and being there and doing whatever is necessary to take care of Deb? They did it. I am blessed to know them.
When you think of Deb, you think of her great smile, her personality. For someone to go so early in life...I can only pray that God has some great plan that I don't understand.
Deb just turned 41 and lost her fight on February 10, 2003.
The second hardest thing I have ever had to do was to go say my goodbyes to Deb. I am so grateful that her family let me stay with them when I flew up to Indy to see Deb for the last time. Everyone knew that the end was coming and Darlene called me to say I better come, that they don't know how long she would last. Thank God I didn't wait, or I would have missed my time with Deb. That would have been the biggest regret of my life.
I was lucky enough to have been on Deb's first world record-breaking relay team. It was the 200 free mixed relay in Minnesota. We were on the same end together and she looked behind me and said she couldn't sprint a 50 fast. I told her that she can get up there, put her head down and kick her ass off. I said that these people don't know Deb Riker, but they will when you're finished. I said "You can do it, and you will do it."
She did it, and it was a wonderful sight to see her reaction to the world record, her first and only. What an honor it was and is for me.
The morning Masters group, along with her evening Masters group, coaches and just anyone who knew Deb will miss her greatly. We all have to put things in perspective and realize that life is very special; we can't take things for granted; we can't put off for tomorrow. We have to live life to its fullest and have no regrets.
It's been a long year for a lot of us and now it's time to start to live our lives as Deb Riker would have wanted us to. We have to go on; we have to do what it is that makes us happy.
I shall miss my friend. I told her that she will be my guardian angel looking down on me so that is how I know everything will be OK.
These are some gentle words of encouragement:
Know those who love you; love is the finest of all gifts and is received only to be given. Embrace those who truly love you; for they are few in a lifetime...Then return that love ten-fold, radiating it from your heart to fill their lives as sunlight warms the darkest corners of the earth.
Love is a journey, not a destination; travel its path daily. Do this and your troubles will be as fleeting as footprints in the sand. When loneliness is your companion and all about you seem to be gone, pause and listen, for the sound of loneliness is silence, and in silence we hear best.
Listen well, and your moments of silence will always be broken by the gentle words of encouragement spoken by those of us who love you.
Good bye my friend,
From Mel Goldstein: YMCA Indy SwimFit has set up a "Deb Riker Memorial Fund" at the Benjamin Harrison YMCA in Indianapolis. The contributions received by this fund will go to help kids attend summer camp who for what ever reason do not have the financial resources to attend. Deb loved kids and was always willing to help them. We thought this to be only fitting to have her memorial benefit kids. This will be an on-going fund which will be administered by the Y. Any one wanting to contribute can contact me and I will give them all of the particulars.