I took my loaned scooter off road to the edge of a pond. I picked some wildflowers to bring back for my room. That was a small act of independence, remembrance, and ownership all in one. I was a little scared the scooter couldn’t get back up the slight incline on slippery grass or jump back over the lip onto the paved path. I did have to push it a bit like a non motorized scooter with one leg until the wheels gained traction and then off I zipped back home.
It felt like a remembered activity from years of living in the countryside with a busy dining table to host a floral collection. These flowers sit alone in a vase on my bureau, and Richard smiles at me from the photo hanging on the wall above. I have the occasional visitor and flowers are always inviting and decorative. “This room is my room….” Woody Guthrie’s song “This Land is My Land”, is well known at Kendal, a kind of progressive patriotic anthem sung at weekly sing alongs and traditionally with the whole community on the fourth of July.
In your picture you are forever smiling, a little bit squinted, looking into the sun there on top of Mt. Blanc. This photo holds the forceful focus of your personality, it shows the eyes that held others firmly in their gaze. Those eyes reflect the intensity of your famous hugs, where you didn’t let go until you felt it was received.
It was what one daughter said she missed the most about you and everyone who had ever been hugged by you, concurred. People knew they had been truly embraced, every single time your arms went around them. Your hugs were never invasive, just insistently loving until the hug-ee surrendered to the inevitability of taking it in.
Lord, I miss the physicality of you, Richard. That physicality includes sex, of course, but just the smell of your soap, the touch of your face with or without your beard, the sounds of you making your way through your day in and out of the house and office, the taste of vitality you radiated from your strong body and devotion to hard work- the vibrant masculine sweetness you effortlessly inhabited from the day you were born. There is no one like you anywhere on this earth and I am not looking for you here. My memories are static like the photo I am speaking to. But Love is fluid and waves of Love are omni-directional. They are dynamic and infill me with painful searching and momentary islands of rest as I find and lose the ache of your bodily presence in my life.
Many MS people complain of the “MS hug.” This an unpleasant sensation of banding around the midriff- for me it is caused by a lesion or sclerosis at T6, on the thoracic spine. It can feel merely irritating to acutely hot and inflamed, radiating to muscle spasticity when I am tired. It is not a nice hug, it is rather a misplaced tug of an angry rope or an electrical shock wrapping round and round my ribs. Sometimes I take a NSAID (non steroidal anti inflammatory like Tylenol or Ibuprofen) to tamp it down but it is always there. My neurology also insists on being accepted, on not letting go until I surrender. Learning to feel this as Love is an ongoing challenge. Since I have rediscovered that my body is inside of Me, I do love it as best I can. Sensation means I am alive.
To summon the solid loss of you, Richard, is painful. Exiling memories of you is also painful and no solution. Living through recall and release, sorrow and acceptance, over and over is the only way forward. Within each release and moment of acceptance lies the seeds of new love everywhere. Not your particular brand of Richard’s love, but Love in a vast of garden of beings. The Hug of God is to be received until we surrender. Richard, one of the official Ambassadors of the Hug, may be gone, but the Children of Love are us and we are everywhere.