A Course of Love, as I reminded my grieving friend Terry, is about our humanity as well as our divinity. Terry is grieving for our mutual friend Richard, who died on the 9th. His services are today.
Since I was in the midst of Katie’s services as I heard of Richard’s death, my attention was not with him right away. By the time it was, and I learned that his services are today, I felt that I could not make the trip and yet that I was neglecting something deeply meaningful and that I was failing to respond to Richard’s loss as I would like.
This morning I dedicated my meditation to him and heard, “I am with friends.”
I am with friends. That is how I felt when I met Richard and when through his friendship and love of A Course of Love, I was invited to Florida and was embraced by not only Richard, but Terry, Lee, and Carol.
But let me back up.
I first met Richard just after A Course of Love came out. He had ACOL and the Treatises but was seeking a copy of The Dialogues and writing me via email. Soon he decided to come to Minnesota to visit me. This was a significant first for me, the first time that I saw that A Course of Love would have such impact and that someone would associate that impact with me and want to meet me.
Later, when I met Terry, Lee, and Carol, they laughed and laughed with me over that visit…finding it hilarious that Donny had to come home from work to check out this man who “could be a kook for all we know”, and that Richard wanted to meditate in my cream-colored formal living room, where no one ever sat at the time, and that I wasn’t a meditator then, and that I was so incapable of resistance, so overpowered to have this man come into my home and just make himself at home and lead me by the hand into my own too formal to bother sitting in room. It was so “Richard.” That is why it was so funny, my new friends imagining me not knowing Richard as they did and encountering him in this way.
As sweet and funny as that visit was, and as meaningful as it was to me to have my first visitor of this kind, it was more of an impact in other ways that came of Richard’s nature. For one thing, I was a mess at the time. I can’t remember exactly what was going on now but I know I was in conflict with my co-presenter for one reason or another and that I told Richard all about it, and that I felt free to say the f word in his presence and that he might have come expecting some serene and wise person but if he did he never showed it. He accepted me exactly as I was and did not take my discombobulated state as evidence that I had nothing to offer. No, he invited me to come speak at his Unity Church a while later – the trip on which I met the others.
It was one of the most magical trips of my life, occasion of my first more formal dialogues, first time learning how to walk on the beach and falling in love with the ocean. The sequence of events has left me, but I know I visited Richard’s home, met his son Isaiah, his beloved dog (s) and was in every way that could happen in a short time “let in” to his life, and I suppose that was as true of me too when he came to see me, was in my home, met Donny, the cats and dog, came to the coffee shop where he likely would have met one or both of my daughters. At any rate it happened. That was it. We were “inside” each other’s lives.
He sat and talked to me in my hotel room as I ironed my clothes, which for some reason is one of my most intimate memories; took me to a bar where he told everyone about A Course of Love, fed me a dish I’d never had (crabs?), treated me to wine and even got me up to dance.
He didn’t have a pious bone in his body or have a bit of a problem “being real.” He didn’t know any other way and had no division between his work and his surfing and his spirituality. He was a guy’s guy in so many ways – ex Navy Seal, robust, full of life. He didn’t negate anything that I could see – being a family man, a tender man, a generous friend or a guy’s guy. He was totally willing to proclaim his loves – whatever they were – and A Course of Love was one of them and that was no problem in his energy field, being on the same level as everything else and yet somehow elevated too. It was all sublime.
Not that he was perfect or never had a problem. He called with a problem on occasion and counseled me through some. He even called once when he’d had too much to drink! We were that kind of friends. One bit of advice I always remember is him telling me to get out and walk. He could tell when I was stuck in my head and needed movement, but never, ever, did any amount of stuckness lessen me in his eyes. He’s one of the few people I ever met with whom I didn’t doubt myself in that way of feeling bad for saying the wrong thing, being in the wrong place, or just being myself.
I imagine that this was true for everyone – that once Richard loved you – you were “in” and he was totally with you and totally loyal.
I drove to Florida on my first visit, and as I left, I felt what I remember describing then as though I was attached to him and my other friends and the ocean and Florida, to that time and place and the connection we’d made, by a bunge cord. As if, were I to take my foot off the gas my car would bounce right back there. If my hands hesitated on the wheel, the car would turn itself around. I’d never felt anything like it. I’ve lived in Minnesota all my life with not a desire ever to live elsewhere and I was shaken by my desire to stay and the imaginings I had of another life that could be had there.
Terry and I have been friends ever since. Lee and I talked on the phone once a month for a long time afterwards. And Richard was our connector.
I am taking the message that “I am with friends” not only as a confirmation that Richard is held in an even wider embrace of friendship and love, but as a message to carry forward in my life. “I am with friends.” I can live everyday with that knowing, with that safe feeling, with all the enemies of the world (real or imagined, large or small) transformed into friends. I can let go any desire to see anything else, to feel slighted or undervalued or wronged or under attack. I can see that I am with friends everywhere, every day.
That is Richard’s gift to me and to many – a view of a friendly world – a universe where love is real, and where our humanity and our divinity are all of one piece and one peace.
His ashes will be spread today near the beach where we walked.
I had been going through my boxes of pictures and found a card from Richard before I heard of his death. I put it up on the top of my bookshelf without reading the inside. Today I did. I don’t think Richard would mind me sharing it. It says it all.
“I believe that Love is the Answer. Spread the word…I love you…” Richard