I wrote this in the days following Ron's death and read it at his funeral.
My name is Connie Winch. It was my privilege to be Ron Knope’s girlfriend…though in a way, he was even more than [my boyfriend]. He hadn’t asked me to marry him yet—it was much too early for that. But we became so close and grew to care for each other so much, that we were both pretty certain that we would get married someday. Ron was my best friend, my most intimate confidant, and the love of my life.
Ron was just the sweetest man who ever lived. He was so caring, so thoughtful, so selfless. He wanted to know my opinions and my preferences, he wanted to meet my needs, and he wanted to make me happy. He hated to see my cry, and when I did, all he wanted was to make me happy. He would say, “Don’t cry” and “It’ll be alright, you’ll see.” He even hated to see my cry happy tears…it was so cute!
And Ron didn’t mind expressing his caring and his feelings for me—in fact, just the opposite: He was eager to let me know how much I meant to him, and he did so often. Almost daily he would say things like, “I just wish you were here,” “I miss you so much,” “The only thing that would make things better right now is if you were here.” And of course we had pet names for each other…He called me Sweetie, Sweetheart, Baby, Gorgeous, Beautiful, Princess. And I called him Honey, Sweetie, Sweetheart, Baby, My Prince. We were very lovey-dovey…it probably would have made most people gag. But we loved it. Many of our 2-hour plus phone conversations were dominated by “I wish you were here” and “You’re my sweetie.”
All those phone conversations were great, but they didn’t hold a candle to the all-too-few occasions that we got to spend time together. We didn’t have to do anything “big,” we were just happy that we were together.
Not only was Ron caring and sweet, he had a real strength about him. He was not at all intimidated by my being a strong, spirited, self-sufficient woman, nor by any of the emotional baggage I was still dealing with from past family and relationship issues—and he knew about all of it. I could tell that he wasn’t intimidated, because he just kept on caring for me in spite of it all. But he affirmed it for me when he said, “Nothing you’ve ever told me makes me not want to be with you.” I can’t even describe how much hearing those words meant to me.
Ron was also not afraid to deal with issues that arose between us; in fact, he wanted me to bring up anything that bothered me and for us to work through it. And he told me often that he’d do the same about anything that was bothering him. Like me, he would rather put the issue on the table and work through it than for either of us to be hurting and fearful of telling the other. He even thought my “tell it like it is” style and my commitment to dealing with issues added to my sweetness. That amazed me and was just one more example of things he loved about me that I had never thought a man would ever really love.
Ron also wanted to protect me from any kind of harm. For example, this church, in doctrine and somewhat in practice is much like the churches I grew up in. But he insisted up and down that it’s nothing like my past churches in attitudes and relationships. You see, the churches I grew up in were warped by a harsh, legalistic view of God and by judgmental treatment of others. Since one of the possibilities that Ron and I talked about was that I would eventually move here and attend this church, I asked him a lot of questions like, “When such-and-such happens, do people react like [legalistic, judgmental, etc.]?” (I’m sure you’ll be delighted to know that the answer was always no.) Well, one of the times we talked about this, he said to me, “I want you to know something. You will always be welcome wherever I am, whether that’s my house or my church or whatever. And no one’s gonna treat you badly, or they’ll have to answer to me.” I was amazed by his perception in seeing the underlying need underneath all the “stuff” I talked about, and I loved that he wanted to protect me, even from emotional harm.
In the last few days, I started writing Ron a letter. I’d like to read portions of it to you now.
“Ron, I loved you. Since our love was still new, when we weren’t talking on the phone or seeing each other in person, the doubts would creep in. But when we were on the phone or together, I wanted to say those words. They just felt right.
You loved me…for who I really was: just me, the real me. You saw the best in me. I knew I could always be myself around you. In fact, I didn’t even have to think about that with you. I just was myself and you accepted me and loved me for it.
Ron, I doubt that I’ll ever know another man who is as much of a prince as you were. You were my prince….And they just don’t make ‘em like you very often.
And to have to say goodbye to you hurts like hell. We dreamed about so many things: getting married, making love, sharing a home, traveling together—just plain living…together. And now I have to continue on with my life somehow without any of those dreams coming true. And that will be the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do.
I can’t say I’m not angry with you. You didn’t take care of yourself like you should have. And I feel that has robbed me of you…even though I know that everything happens in God’s timing. You cared about me, but you didn’t do what it took to stay around to keep on loving me, for me to keep on loving you, and for any of our dreams to come true.
But I take comfort from the fact that we knew how much we loved each other, because we expressed it all the time. And I know that you’re in Heaven, and that helps me too. Everything is perfect for you now—no more struggles, no more health concerns, no more weight concerns, and no more pain.
I’m sure you’re up there rockin.’ I’m sure you’re bringing joy to everyone there, just like you did here. And I like to think you’re telling them how much you love this girl you had to leave behind. And how much she loved you. They can see that—all my tears and my sadness and my pain are all just indications of how much I loved you.
Ron, every night before we hung up, you always wished me sweet dreams. Honey, you were my sweet dream.
I loved you in life, I mourn your death, and I will miss you always.
All my love—