Another week at Elat Chayyim

Remembering Dick

A bit before one this afternoon, we picked our way carefully up the muddy path to the tent in the field at Cricket Creek Farm. Young men with huge umbrellas were stationed along the way, to escort people and keep us (more or less) dry. The rain stopped just before the memorial began, and the clouds lifted and reconvened, drifted apart and then together again, over the mountains all afternoon.

A remarkable range of people spoke about Dick, from Nancy Birdsall to Dick and Jude's longtime carpenter. One of Dick's nieces closed her remarks with Gandalf's farewell ("Here at last, on the shores of the sea, comes the end of our Fellowship. I will not say 'do not weep,' for not all tears are evil...") Several people read Dick's words, either excerpts from e-mail messages or passages from his journal like the ones I blogged a week ago. Almost everyone referred to Dick's energy, his openness, his generosity of spirit, his radical optimism, and his passion for making the world a better place

We closed with a reading from Kohelet (3:1-8, "to everything there is a season..."), a passage from Thich Nhat Hanh about continuation and change and the nature of things, and a recitation of El Male Rachamim and the mourner's kaddish. And the whole thing was framed with music. At the start of the afternoon a lone bagpiper walked down from the woods, playing all the way. At the end, a few guitarists picked up their instruments and we all sang Jamaica Farewell (reported to be one of the only songs to which Dick knew all the words), and his sons fired a cannon into the misty fields.

Then all three hundred of us retired to the stone barn for a beautiful buffet of breads, artisanal cheeses, olives and fruits. We milled around and reminisced and talked about how much Dick would have loved the afternoon. Seeing so many people from his life, together -- the friends he made as a teenager at summer camp alongside the professors with whom he taught, the young entrepreneurs he mentored embracing his beloved wife and children -- would have delighted him, I think.

The last story we heard came from our friend Margaret. When she and her family got the sad news about Dick's passing, they were in Canada. On their way home to North Carolina, they gave their kids glowsticks as nightlights for the long drive, and her oldest son Charlie (who's going on seven) was worried that his glowstick wouldn't last long enough. "Can we light it again if it goes out?" he asked.

Margaret explained that they could not. "It'll shine for ten hours, as long as we need it to. But after that, we can't light it again."

"Like Dick," Charlie apparently said, without missing a beat. "But his light lasted a really long time."


Tomorrow I'm off to Elat Chayyim to spend a week studying Deep Ecumenicism with Rabbi Shaya Isenberg. I'm looking forward to a week of meditation and prayer, to the conversations, to meeting new people and reconnecting with that wonderful place and everything it awakens in me. In some way I can't quite quantify, I'll be taking Dick with me this time, and that seems fitting.

If any of you will be there, please seek me out! And to everyone else, have a wonderful week; I'll be online again in about seven days...


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