Mrs. Texas has become a family to me. It's one of the reasons I continue to compete. Sure, every time I step out on that stage I want to win the crown. But the experience every year is what keeps me coming back. Some of the same girls compete from year to year and it's always great to catch up with them. Other members of our pageant family are staples, like everyone's pageant friend Frankie who runs rehearsals and our photographer Larry. Then there's Alvin and Rich.
Rich and Alvin. Alvin and Rich. They are always there. Always together. Alvin usually stands outside the interview room with the contestants on the day of competition. Before we go in, he'll say a little prayer, one I always find calming and reassuring. The door will open when it's time go in. Rich, our auditor, greets you with a smile while Alvin escorts you to the podium. Once Alvin leaves, the interview begins and after four minutes, Rich will call, "time."
Rich always gives me a wink or a big smile on my way out the room. This past year, he grabbed my hand and whispered that my interview was outstanding. I went upstairs and cried, so grateful for his reassuring words.
During the pageant, Alvin and Rich sit towards the front of the theater - their presence and reassuring smiles help calm my nerves. At the end of the evening and another top 5 finish, Alvin and Rich came over. We hugged and they told me how wonderful I did. I had a chance to talk to Rich a bit more about his health. He's been having health problems for a while now but he said he felt good. I gave these two men big hugs as we parted ways. I wish someone had been around to take a picture. It would be my last memory of a happy and healthy Rich and I wish I had a photo to prolong the memory. You see, Rich's health declined drastically in the weeks after the pageant and on January 3rd after a long battle, Rich succumbed to cancer.
I visited Rich in the hospital the day before he passed. I knew he was in pain, but he knew we were there. Alvin received devastating news about Rich while we were there. There were tears. Many, many tears.
Alvin stood by the side of Rich's bed and leaned over and kissed him. Alvin told Rich he loved him. He thanked him for teaching him about love. You see, they've been partners for almost 17 years. Alvin gave Rich permission to go when he was ready, permission more easily given knowing that Rich had accepted Christ into his life back in November. The moment was beautiful. I felt blessed to have been a part of it. The next evening, he was gone.
So I'll be back in Corsicana in December for the pageant, once again representing Frisco. We'll stay in the same hotel. Practice on the same stage. Interview in the same room. But Rich won't be there. I am certain the reality will be an emotional one, but I believe Rich's spirit will continue to be there. He's family. And I can assure you his Mrs. Texas family will miss him terribly. I know I will.