She Sings of the Light by Which He First Arrived

By Jan Richardson

Gary, Illuminated

Four years ago today, on the second day of Advent, this remarkable man died. Grief time does not work like normal time, and I will say that Gary’s death feels both more ancient and more recent than that. I am tremendously grateful for the graces that have accompanied me in this quartet of years, and for the wondrous grace that came into my life in the form of Garrison Doles.

This is a photo from a shoot we did at the marvelous Historic State Theatre in Eustis, Florida. At the time, we were a little vexed by some of the lighting challenges. Looking back at the photos from this side of his death, I am struck by the play of the light around Gary, and how it seemed to know what it was doing, in ways we couldn’t have realized at the time.

This photo inspired this new poem. It’s for the one whose light continues to be such a grace. And it’s for you, with gratitude.

On the Anniversary of His Death, She Sings of the Light
by Which He First Arrived

Let it be said you arrived
like an annunciation that night,
a tangle of light and song,
ghost of wing promising
equal parts shelter
and flight.

No angel, you, but you knew
about the weak points between worlds,
those membranes that give way
to the strange meetings
it takes a strong heart
to hold.

You lived betwixt.

So, sure, I can see you kin
to that herald who came hailing
the girl who had been minding
her own self until the moment
he alighted, a luminous tumble
of flesh and wing and word, saying
blessed are you and
do not fear and
you will bear.

Imagine the blazing of
that moment, the brilliance
not even visible, perhaps, but
seared into her bones
by the collision of speech and fire
that would send her from there
quickened and

You entered like that.

More subtle, perhaps,
but with unmistakable heat
and a cadence not entirely
of this earth.

And blessed am I
who bear it now:
scar of what burned between us,
testimony to that fearsome,
gladsome light that struck
like a match to the heart,
radiating into a map
beneath my skin,
the lines of it singing
as they show the way
from here.

—Jan Richardson

18 Responses to “She Sings of the Light by Which He First Arrived”

  1. Kathyann Corl Says:

    Your words speak to my soul. It was what would have been Kristen’s 38th birthday on Nov 27 but it was never to be for she passed at 28. It seems that recognizing that it has been 10 years without her I have been writing and did another scrapbook page in her memory. Lingering love continues beyond the world’s understanding of time. Pax et Bonum

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Kathyann, thank you so much. I am wishing you many blessings as you continue to remember Kristen. I’m glad you’ve been writing and that you’ve created another scrapbook page in her memory. Being creative is such a powerful and helpful way to engage grief and memory, and to express the love that continues. I’m grateful for your words and pray that many graces will attend your Advent path. Deep peace to you.

  2. Charlotte Says:

    Our son, chosen by us, died three days before his 20th birthday. I wonder what sort of 30 year old he would be – a birthdate to remember next week. I wonder if his birth mother dreams of him, and would she grieve doubly, knowing he is gone?
    I am grateful for your memory and mourning that help give words to our layers of loss. Grace to you in this Advent season.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Charlotte, thank you. What heartrending and powerful questions. I’m so grateful for the gift of your words, born of your own grief; they come as a blessing to me. Deep peace to you and yours—including your son—as you approach his birthdate and move through these Advent days.

  3. Shirlee Bromley Says:

    So beautiful, so poignant, so meaningful on this second night Advent.
    Bless you, all you are, all you have been, and all you will be…
    With a grateful heart, thank you!

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Shirlee, thank you so much for your beautiful words! I am grateful. Many blessings to you as Advent begins!

  4. Sherry Says:

    Beautiful! Your writing and art leave be wordless! I am in awe.

    Thank you,

  5. Shirley Childs Says:

    Dear Jan,

    I was one of the many women who made up the gathering at St. Paul’s (Riverview, NB) so many years ago. I have appreciated your work from many years before that and still am deeply gifted and challenged and blessed by all you offer.
    Yesterday I offered some leadership to another Advent Women’s retreat at St. Paul’s with Claudette doing the main leadership. I am blessed to journey with her in my life.
    As I read this message and poem marking the anniversary of Gary’s death, I was so deeply moved by the connections and by all that is healing you. It is always somewhere in the journey of each of us…..a loss that was deep and sometimes not well enough grieved so we continue the work.
    Deep gratitude and prayers surrounding you,
    Shirley Childs

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Shirley, thank you so much! I carry such good memories of being on that retreat at St. Paul’s, and it is lovely to experience ongoing threads of connection from that. I know what a blessing Claudette is, and I can easily imagine that the recent Advent retreat that the two of you were involved in leading was a blessing to everyone there.

      Thank you for the gift of your words. I wish you many, many blessings in these Advent days and always.

  6. Grace Hillers Says:

    So beautiful Jan, I love your words and have found them to be so healing for me over the last 31/2 years. I have shared your books with others and I am so happy to have you in my life again this advent season. Advent has always been a special season for me – as a child my Dad was a minister and we were taught about the beauty and wonder of advent, we always had an advent wreath on the dining room table. He left me at the young age of 21. I am now 72 and a widow living in a new apartment this year, in a community in which I lived almost since he died. My children are all grown and raising their teenage families elsewhere and I hope they can teach their children the blessings and love the advent season brings. I am not sure but all I can do is model and pray !! God’s blessings to you and your staff.

  7. Laurie Eaton Says:

    My heart is filled by the way you have captured the mysterious transcendence that is birth and love and death as they flow between one another. I’m grateful for your gift of letting the truths of your life be born in the form of blessings. Thank you.

  8. Lynda Says:

    This poem strikes deep within my heart admonishing me to always be grateful for the moment – for those moments that bring deep joy but perhaps are fleeting. I need to learn this important lesson and not to cling but to give each moment in gratitude to God. Thank you Jan!

  9. JoMae Spoelhof Says:

    I am another whose words you touch. Especially this year as next week marks one year after the death of my husband, my love of almost 60 years. Godde’s Grace has sustained me, as have the words of many who, like you, have walked this path. I have spent much of my time alone writing and pondering all that has happened. I have learned much this year and hope to move into 2018 with a renewed sense of who I am and a new resolve to carry out Godde’s purpose in my life.
    Thank you so much for sharing your gifts. You are a blessing to many.

    May Godde bless you in this Christmas Season and in the coming year.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      JoMae, thank you so much for your words. I am so sorry that you know such deep loss, and glad that you are making space for writing and pondering. I pray that the love that you and your husband shared for nearly 60 years will continue to be very present for you and linger with you as light among the grief. I send many blessings for you especially as you move through the first anniversary of your husband’s death, and I pray that many graces will attend your path as it continues to unfold. Deep peace to you, and thank you again.

  10. Anya Kumara Says:

    Thank you for your blessings and full heart of creative joy in The face of loss.
    I read your books often and to others as well. My husband of 31 years died five years ago and I celebrate his greening and maverick heart daily and the love that does not die. My poetry book for him DYING INTO LOVE 13 elegies to Paul, influenced by Rilkes Duino Eligies, keeps me connected to love and letting go. Much love to you. ANya

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Anya, many thanks for the gift of your words. I’m so sorry about the death of your husband, and I so appreciate your words about celebrating “his greening and maverick heart” and the love that lives with you still. I’m glad you have been writing! I wish you many blessings as you travel through these Advent days and beyond.

  11. Susan Fontaine Godwin Says:

    My goodness, what an amazing photograph that captures the thin place that we stumble upon without notice. My Gary passed away December 5, 2015, just as we entered the first week of Advent. We too had held vigil for 10 days as he lingered betwixt worlds. Your words are my companions during this season of darkness, longing, waiting, remembering and watching. I sense his presence and light in so many stories, whispers, shadows and glittering light. We only had 15 years together here on earth, but oh how he eternally transformed my life. Thank you, my friend, for giving words to so many of my feelings and experiences.

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