I lost a dear friend near the end of 2017. In the years preceding his death, we only spoke occasionally through Facebook, but his was one of the most formative friendships of my life. Even as we drifted apart, I always thought of him fondly, and I believe he felt the same about me.
My friend’s first and middle names were John Philip, but I don’t remember anyone calling him that. The only name I ever really knew him by was Pip.
Pip and I were friends from a very young age. We first met through a mutual friend when we were about 5 or 6, but we didn’t really start hanging out until we were put on the same soccer team a few years later. Neither of us was particularly athletic—we were both a lot more comfortable reading and playing video games than physical sports. But it was soccer and our mutual ineptitude that really forged our friendship.
Throughout late elementary school and middle school, Pip was one of my closest friends. I can’t count the number of times we spent the night at each other’s houses, playing video games, laughing about books, making stupid jokes, and generally staying up far later than we should have. He introduced me to several games that are still among my favorites today. I shared my odd tastes in music with him—the sort of songs that were played on the old Dr. Demento Show. We’d go out to this rope swing in the woods near his house that went ridiculously high and was far too dangerous for us. I was terrified of heights. We took turns swinging anyway, shouting out battlecries from Brian Jacques’s Redwall books as we did. We played with bottle rockets, somehow managing to survive without blowing our fingers off. The only explanation for that is divine intervention.
When we got to high school, Pip and I gradually drifted apart—not due to any sort of animosity; we just developed different groups of friends. I was in marching band and choir, while he spent more time in programming classes. We were still friends, but we weren’t as close as we had been.
A few years after we graduated from high school, I learned that his mother had passed away. As I now lived on the other side of the country, I asked my mom to attend her funeral in my stead. She did, and I can’t express how much that meant to me. It was important. Years later, during a few different conversations online, he recalled that she had been there and expressed his appreciation that she had come.
Over the years, Pip and I would often go for several months, or even more than a year, without chatting. We would like each other’s posts on Facebook and occasionally post comments, but nothing more than that. Then suddenly, one of us would message the other, and we’d start chatting again like it had only been a few days. Both of us would enthuse over different shows or books that had caught our interests, and it was just nice to have someone who had known me almost my entire life with whom I could talk about anything. We had developed different tastes and opinions over the years, but when you boiled everything down, we were still just Pip and Bill, the same dorky kids who couldn’t kick a soccer ball to save our lives.
But we could spend hours talking about Mega Man and Final Fantasy.
One night in October, Pip passed away suddenly in his sleep. I found out a few days later when a mutual friend let me know. It’s hard to believe that I’m not going to get a message from him out of the blue asking how I’m doing or what I thought of the latest episode of The Shannara Chronicles.
When I made my very first post on Facebook about The Innkeeper’s Table, he Liked the post, which was really the last interaction we had with each other. I’m glad he knew about my plans to build a board game cafe. I think it’s the sort of place he would have enjoyed.
As I wrapped my mind around the fact that he was gone, I was struck with the feeling that I should include some sort of memorial for him as part of the business. Nothing huge, but something to make sure he’s remembered, even out here in Utah. I was talking to my brother one day, and he and I struck upon an idea. The spots that appear on the vast majority of dice are called “pips.” And so, as part of my cafe, I decided to keep a clear display that’s filled with dice. It may not mean much to anyone else, but… for some reason, it just feels right.
So last night, I went out and bought a large, glass vase and several dice of different denominations—6-sided, 8-sided, and even a few d20s. They’re all different sizes, different colors. I always remembered Pip having a variety of interests, and these dice and their “pips” represent that. The collection is small now, but hopefully over time, it will grow. I’d love to see it filled to overflowing often, so that we keep needing to move it to a bigger container.
Starting now, and continuing forward, I have an open invitation for people to add dice to the collection. That invitation is extended to anyone who would care to participate, whether they knew Pip or not. He was a great friend, a great fan of games of all sorts, and just an all-around nice guy. You don’t need to feel any obligation—this isn’t any sort of official memorial put on by his family; just an old friend who wants to remember his buddy. But if you’d like to send one or two dice, reach out to me through our Contact page, and we can figure out the best way for you to get them to me. I’ll add them to the vase, and if anyone sees this big jar of dice and asks what it’s about, I’ll invite them to sit down and tell them some of my favorite stories about a genuine, caring, funny guy named Pip.