Richard Harmon exemplified the art of living life

At the age of 52, Richard Harmon (a.k.a. beloved O&AN columnist and photographer Cosmo Shitay) lost his ongoing battle with cancer. Those of us who worked alongside him were truly fortunate to have been blessed by his unique spirit and exceptional talent. 

Of the many and varied talents that Richard possessed, first and foremost his best talent was helping people. There isn't one person who upon meeting him didn’t instantly fall in love with his infectious spirit and boisterous personality. When you left his presence, you left inspired to be more than you are.

Richard loved who he was and didn’t care what anyone else thought about it. He was fearless when approaching any new avenue in his life.

He was the lead vocalist for eight years in a band called “The Wrong Band." He has also been a clown, mime, professional chef and an actor, who appeared in four films and worked alongside Hugh Jackman and a number of other actors and artists.

His positive take on life bled into everything he did including his writings as O&AN columnist Cosmo Shitay. When the world handed him something, he always knew how to say "thank you," take it in stride and then pass what he had learned along.

Richard is survived by a number of family members including his mother, stepfather and brother in Tennessee as well as a daughter in Los Angeles and a son in Connecticut. In the final months of his life, Richard, who had blessed so many, was in turn blessed by the presence of his companion, lover and primary caregiver Rodney Carver.

Rodney was generous enough to talk with me about his life with Richard and the legacy of love he left behind.

O&AN: I understand that you and Richard have known each other since April of ’06. How did you became not only his companion but also the person who would care for him in his final days?

RC: Like most relationships we started out as very good friends. We went to a few events and parties together and just hung out. In December he got very sick, and I came to his home to walk the dogs for him. That day I really knew that he was very sick and something told me that he was going to pass away very soon. He continued to decline in health and finally got to a point where he couldn’t even pick his head up out of the bed by himself, so I came to take him to the hospital. That’s when I realized I was in love with him and that he was also in love with me.

One night soon after he said, “Tonight’s the night. I can see the room getting hazy.” He was sure he was going to go that night, and he wanted me to know that he loved me. I started crying and told him that he could be the love of my life. At that point we both decided to not be afraid of whatever was going to happen and that no matter what we would love each other.

When he didn’t pass that night, I knew he needed my heart in order to survive. After that he would introduce me to his friends as his gift and the man who saved his life. Our love was real, raw and perfect with none of the relationship bullshit.

O&AN: It’s well known that Richard has a very close family. How did they react to your seemingly sudden appearance in the forefront of his life?

RC: His family has been so appreciative of me for loving him the way I do. I am a part of their family now, and they knew beyond any doubt that he meant the world to me. Richard has passed and his pain is over, but we still have our pain here. When his mother first learned that her son had passed, her only concern was for me. They all have given me nothing but love, respect and complete acceptance.

O&AN: Anyone who knew Richard knew about his unique ability to turn any situation in life into a positive one and how he radiated that energy to everyone around him. Tell me a little about how he affected you in your all-too-brief time together.

RC: When anyone first met Richard, it was always his intent to inspire them in some way. He showed me from the first time that we met that I could be, do and have anything I wanted. He was such an inspiration to people continually. He welcomed all challenges and he wanted everybody he knew to live in that spirit. He really knew the secret of life and the art of living, and he wanted to share that with everybody. We only have the things in this life. We have ourselves and we have each other. That is the most important lesson that he ever taught me. I spent a large portion of my life thinking that I was not worthy and that I was stuck in a rut with no control over my life. Richard showed me how beautiful I really am and the capacity of my heart.

O&AN: Do I understand correctly that one of the main things he did was to help you decide to learn to play guitar?

RC: Music has always been a very big part of his life. I had only just started picking up a guitar when we first met and when I wanted to give up he kept telling me to keep going, so I did.

O&AN: What was the result of that?

RC: I wrote him a song one night while he was at the hospital. I was so tired and beat from running back and forth to the hospital that I couldn’t rest, so I stayed up all night writing. Two days later he came home from the hospital, and I went and got him a nice pasta dish that we sat in the bed together and shared. Afterward, I pulled a chair up to the bed and told him that I had gotten something for him. So I sat there in the chair with the guitar that I almost put down had it not been for him and I played the beautiful song that I wrote for him about how he inspired me and how he changed my life. We sat there for hours afterward crying and holding each other. The final lesson of that moment in my life was that there is a song for every chapter of your life. Those were his words to me.

Richard, you are truly missed by us all.

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