Opal died on July 23 of pancreatic cancer. She had planned ahead for her funeral, a memorial service held in the chapel of the Chester T. French Memorial Mausoleum. Rick Brittain, an employee at Sunset Memorial Park and a part-time pastor, was the celebrant for her service. Afterward, several people told Rick what a fine job he did and that they’d like him to do their funerals when the time came. Randy was one of those people.
Little did anyone know that a little more than a month later, Randy would suffer a massive heart attack and die at work at the age of 52.
Even though he didn’t feel good that morning of August 29, he didn’t want to go to the doctor. He went in to do his job as the manager of a Staples store on the west side of Albuquerque. He dropped in Aisle 10 and stopped breathing, felled by a 90% blocked left artery.
Everyone was stunned by this sudden death of such a well-loved man. Staples had to bring in a temporary crew on the day Randy died because everyone who worked for him was so broken up. Even a customer who learned about his death came because she wanted to be there for his family. His wife Lucy received hugs and support from almost 100 people who filled the chapel to standing room only. She said, “I’m surrounded by such good people.”
A recording of a bluesy guitar piece performed by Randy softly played over the sound system in the mausoleum. He loved guitars, both playing and collecting them. He actually did a very polished self-produced CD, playing all the instruments and designing a case cover.
James Dooley, who knew Randy for 35 years, described him as a fun-loving person, laid-back and easygoing. Once he asked Randy to join his bowling team and suggested coming out to practice. Playing off the famous line from the film Treasure of the Sierra Madre (or perhaps from Blazing Saddles), Randy replied, “Practice? I don’t need no stinkin’ practice!”
The photo board at the front of the room showed a smiling man with a mustache, out fishing, with his wife at Paris Las Vegas, and with his family. Lucy said he had a mullet years ago that she braided and cut off. She still has that lock of hair.
Rick Brittain opened the service by saying, “Guitar players love a standing room only crowd… I will not presume to tell a room full of his family and friends about Randy. Let me just say a few words: Hemi. Les Paul. 12-bar blues. Valle Grande. I ‘get’ this guy because we like so many of the same things.”
He opened the floor for comments, and cousin Brenda shared some stories from their childhood together – their birthdays were only two weeks apart. One Christmas they both got peppermint Lifesaver story books and they ate them all at once, so much they got sick. And they played rubber tipped dart guns, but then replaced the darts with crayons – the folks weren’t too keen about that. And he’d play his guitar for her and she just loved to lay back and listen.
Pastor Rick shared the poetry from First Corinthians 13:
I may speak in the languages of humans and of angels.
But if I don’t have love, I am a loud gong or a clashing cymbal.
I may have the gift to speak what God has revealed, and I may understand all mysteries and have all knowledge. I may even have enough faith to move mountains. But if I don’t have love, I am nothing.
I may even give away all that I have and give up my body to be burned. But if I don’t have love, none of these things will help me.
Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn’t jealous. It doesn’t sing its own praises. It isn’t arrogant. It isn’t rude. It doesn’t think about itself. It isn’t irritable. It doesn’t keep score. It isn’t happy when injustice is done, but it is happy with the truth. Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up. Love never ends.
“Love never ends. How cool is that?” said Pastor Rick. “As that great philosopher Stevie Ray Vaughn said, ‘Yeah I love my baby….Heart and soul. Love like ours won’t never grow old. She’s my sweet little thang….She’s my pride and joy. She’s my sweet little baby….I’m her little lover boy’.”
Randy loved music, fast cars and his family. He felt that rock and roll peaked in the 70s. “I am honored to be with you today because we could have hung out together and fished, played music and argued whose wife was prettier,” he said.
“Remember those trips to the lake and Jemez, and crazy times together,” he said. “Be glad that it rips your heart out that you lost your Dad, because for some people, it wouldn’t make any difference.”
“I don’t want to presume to tell you what to do, or offer schmaltzy, sentimental words about why this happened,” he said. “I only know one person in the Universe who can answer your questions, and that’s Jesus Christ.”
He closed with a prayer of thanks for Randy’s life, for comfort in the face of the loss of a dear sweet mother and a faithful loving son, and to bless and help those who mourn. Randy’s ashes will be divided among his three adult children and a portion will be scattered in the Valle Grande caldera in the Jemez that he loved so well.
If you’d like to share a memory or thought, please use the comment box below. May Randy Staggs jam with all the guitar greats in heaven.