Clouds

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You were playing in the clouds today
as cottony puffs were slowly teased apart
and feathery wisps were pulled out along the edges
of a dramatic blue canvas of endless sky
where your artistic vision could be unfurled.

So many times, you pointed out cloud formations
and marveled at their enchanting possibilities
for holding both memories and dreams
as you paused in awe before each intricate display
and wondered why delight didn’t meet everyone here.

~ Mark Lloyd Richardson
For Dally

Ashes

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Ashes to ashes
dust to dust
take on new meaning
when the phone rings
and a cheerful voice on the other end
informs me that my wife’s ashes are ready

ready to be picked up
ready to be brought home
ready to remind me of all I have lost
ready to humble me before my own mortality
ready to make me weep at the sight of them
ready to strip me down to my core
ready to reveal the naked truth

our bodies return to earth’s body
our finished flesh is accepted back into earth’s sacred folds
we are never merely our own
we are made of star dust and earth dust
we live in eternity’s flow

ashes to ashes
dust to dust

~ Mark Lloyd Richardson

The only thing to do

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There is no adequate consolation right now
There is no this is going to get better
There is no lessening of the sorrow
I cannot see the path forward
Only darkness, nothingness
I see no future
No home for me
Not without my beloved
Though I am told there is one

I am also told she lives now in my heart
Or that she lives on in the memories we made
Or that she will always be with me in spirit
None of which is enough right now
I want her
Her body, her mind, her sprightly spirit
Only her presence soothes me
Only she gives a day meaning beyond itself

Being a partner with her in life meant everything
She was my safe harbor in the storm
She knew me better than anyone ever has
She loved me fiercely in spite of my shortcomings
She was protective of me and of our love
She spoke so endearingly to me and about me
In the absence of these, who am I

Most of all she made my heart sing
Especially watching her love this life
A life we were creating together
And seeing her revel in genuine friendships
And laughing with such ease
And appreciating the small gifts hidden within each day
And hearing her tender words to me
And tasting her sweet lips
And feeling her body next to mine
There is no consolation for losing these things
There is no adequate measure to the loss I feel

In the meantime,
I will get up in the mornings as best I can
I will look for life wherever I can find it
If only for you, sweetheart
I will remember our devotion to one another
I will not lose sight of how deeply you loved me
I will grieve, and then grieve some more
It is the only thing to do
It is the only thing
You, Dally, make my heart sing
Though for now the song is awash in tears

~ Mark Lloyd Richardson

A letter to my love

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Dallis & I on the Big Island November 2014
(Photo: Wendy Granger)

My dear Dallis,

Sweetheart, I know I told you as you were dying that everything would be okay … that I would be okay … but it was a lie. I don’t like lying to you and I didn’t intend to do so; I was just trying to convince myself, and I was telling you what I thought you needed to hear so that you could let go and be released from a body that was failing you. But now I am utterly heartbroken. I feel completely lost without you. I want so badly to hear your voice again. I want to kiss your lips. I want to hold you and be held by you.

What touched my life so thoroughly during our love affair and marriage is how you would look at me with such affection in your eyes it melted my heart. You brought me to tears so many times just by being honest with me about how you felt. We told each other our deepest truths. We relied on one another to always care most about the other. 

I can’t believe how lucky I was to have you in my life for nineteen years. If I had known sooner that our time together was nearing the end, I would have stopped working earlier and devoted all my time to you … to us! I would have reveled all the more in your smile and laugh. I would have asked you to tell me more about the greatest joys of your life, all the way back. I would have wanted to watch your New Zealand slides with you, and have you regale me about that favorite adventure of yours, years before we met.

I would also have wanted to hear more about the places of pain and disappointment in your life, many of which I know about and others I imagine were left unsaid.

This grief hurts beyond imagining. I feel like I’m dying inside. I struggle just to do the simplest things and get through each day.

I wish there was a way to communicate with you, my beloved. I write these thoughts I’ve been thinking and wish I could get this message to you. You were the very one I needed in my life. You cheered my successes, savored our relationship, and gave me every bit of yourself to love and enjoy. You were my anchor, my safe haven, my source of lightheartedness and joy. 

I’m trying to figure out how to live without you near to me, your physical presence that is. I have never been through more painful days than these. A heavy sadness follows me everywhere, even to sleep. Nothing in my life experience compares to this aching I feel in body, mind and spirit.

Dallis, my beautiful one, it is my deepest hope that you are where there is no more pain and no more crying, and where you know deep and abiding peace. I also hope to see you often in my dreams.

You will always have my love,

Mark

When memories won’t do

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This is the hardest day yet.
I am worth nothing today.
The grief has gotten hold of me
and won’t let go.
There is an empty void
nothing and no one is able to fill.
It follows me around.
I want to go back to sleep
and wake up in the past.

My grief is complicated
by the fact that in my line of work
our lives are set forth as examples
of faith being lived out
in good times and in bad.
What if my faith isn’t holding up that well today?
What if I’m more than a little pissed with God?
What then?

As I hear from good people
trying to offer me solace
they don’t realize there is none to be found.
All the greeting card talk
of being comforted by memories
leaves me feeling comfortless
in these moments when it’s not memories I want.

I want her to peek around the corner and smile.
I want her hug that lingers and won’t let me go.
I want to hear her voice again calling me.
I want her laugh, unique and contagious.
I want her …
not memories of her …
but her.

This is where I am in this moment …
for better or for worse …
with tear-flooded eyes!
Dallis, my heart aches for you.

~ Mark Lloyd Richardson

The Sweetness of Life

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The world is a brighter place
with you in it.
The ocean is a deeper blue
for the color
you splash into my life.
The trees are a softer green
for the compassion
you offer me.

The road is a wider way
for the happiness
you spread before me.
Life is sweet
and sweeter still
with you
and only you.

~ Mark Lloyd Richardson
For Dallis Ann Day
June 2002

My Delight

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You are a fragrant rose in full bloom,
petals shimmering in the morning dew,
heart open wide to the awakening sun.

I lay my eyes on you and am made glad
for the sheer grace that is you.

Your scent floats on the air
with a sweetness I can almost taste.

You are beautiful.
You are my delight.

~ Mark Lloyd Richardson
For Dallis Ann Day
April 2002

Is this grief?

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A week ago, today, my beloved wife Dallis died.
Eight years after being diagnosed with Stage-4 breast cancer
suddenly she is gone.
She’s not sitting across the table from me at breakfast.
She’s not dancing in the living room to her favorite songs.
She’s not laughing on the phone with a friend.
She’s not holding me tenderly in her embrace.
She’s not filling my heart with her smile.

I don’t know what to do with this day that stretches before me.
There’s a list of things to do … but I hardly care.
I’m sure I’ll walk our dog Bailey … both he and I need it.
Otherwise, all bets are off.

Is this grief?
Not knowing how to be me without her?
Not believing she could really be gone?
Being unsettled by the ache in my heart?
Feeling broken into pieces?

Our future together
that once seemed so ripe with possibility
is now only a memory.
I am overcome with sadness.

Mark Lloyd Richardson

The Feast You Spread Before Us

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You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
~ Psalm 23:5 

This is the feast you spread before us, O God,
a sumptuous celebration of freedom in Christ,
sitting down at table not only with those we love,
and with all those who love us in return,
but with the very ones who trouble us.

This is the feast of Eucharist –
profound gratefulness for earth, bread, and breath,
as we dance with joy before the mystery of God,
the One who speaks hope into our troubled hearts,
the One who alone is able to soothe our weary souls.

This is the feast of holy love –
first tasted in a Gethsemane garden
then poured out on Calvary’s hill,
an inexhaustible love that knows no fear
and is undeterred by hate or malice.

This is the feast of surrender –
releasing the anxieties that plague us,
the resentments we nurse over time,
giving us hearts of gladness instead,
hallowing our lives in the sweetness of grace.

This is the gospel feast –
overflowing the small containers of our lives,
bathing us in the font of baptismal blessing,
anointing us with Holy Spirit wind and fire,
bidding us to live forgiven, loved and free.

This is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet –
where lion and lamb lie down together in peace,
where foes watch their bitterness melt away,
where there is neither weeping nor pain nor fear,
rather the sounds of love’s creation praising their God.

~ Mark Lloyd Richardson

Will you welcome the little one?

Revisiting this post because the children of this world need all of us to be active in healing the planet, restoring the sense of community, and protecting their vulnerable hope for the future.

dreamprayact

"Bethlehem at night," Flickr photo by Nancie Sill taken on January 17, 2011. Used by permission. “Bethlehem at night,” Photo by Nancie Sill taken January 17, 2011. Used by permission.

Life is a sacred gift, and all the world’s children deserve to grow up in safety and security surrounded by love. Sadly, far too many children fall victim to the violence of poverty, food insecurity, war, civil unrest, human trafficking, sexual predation, gun violence, and more. Yet these are all our children. The human family is one family in spite of all the forces at work to tear it apart. As Christians reflect upon a child who came into this world to bring peace, we must ask ourselves if we are ready to welcome all the vulnerable ones of this world into our consciousness. For it is only in opening our hearts to the suffering of the little ones that we prepare our hearts to receive the gift of this holy child we await at Christmas.

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