“Passage” by Brian Federle
The relationship between love and grief: (Remarks by Jan Richardson, August 10, 2017).
To be undone and remade by grief’s hand is a messy, scary and cathartic process, said the keynote speaker for Aug. 10, Jan Richardson, an artist, author and ordained United Methodist minister**.
Richardson discussed her emotional journey following the unexpected death of her husband, Gary; he died in 2013 just three and a half years after they had married. In him, she both found and quickly lost her creative partner and “co-conspirator.”
She invited the sisters to consider what it means to “be the presence of love” (the theme of the assembly) even when it seems that the “love that’s been present seems to have left us.” She said death is a process that can come in many forms: a physical death, the death of a dream, loss of a familiar lifestyle, or “the ending or changing of a community that has held our hearts.”
That death is universal and yet can take such different forms for each of us, she said, has been “one of the strange and beautiful things about navigating grief in the wake of my husband’s death.”
“When absence erupts in our lives, how do we call upon the presence of love that goes deeper than our loss?” she asked the LCWR attendees. “How do we open ourselves anew to the presence of love that endures far beyond death?”
“It has been crucial to me to attend well to the grief, to give it time and space, to let it say what it needs to say. … Call it my personal protest or act of resistance in a culture that so often wants to urge us along in our grief, wants us to move on beyond our mourning, wants us to be OK, because not being OK can make other people uncomfortable.”
If we try to hurry along the grief, Richardson said, we risk missing the presence of love.
“May my love be more fierce than my grief,” she repeated, a special prayer for her in this particular moment of grieving.
A seemingly subtle but distressing adjustment Richardson didn’t anticipate was her new relationship with pronouns and tenses: What was once “we” and “ours” had become “I” and “mine.”
“Where can we live in the plural present, with those whose hearts we hold and who hold us in theirs?” Richardson asked. “When our hearts break, where can we still say ‘we’ in the way that enables us to know that we are not alone? Where can we still say ‘now’ in a way that allows us to live into the love that does not end with death?”