Except Our Loving Made It So

richardmarshall2004If you or I die first,
let willows still blow silver by the stream,
let frogs hop on the driveway after rain;
let poppies and lathyrus brightly flower,
and pale sweet lilies by the workroom door;
let hawks rise, apples fall,
and jostaberries still be sour;
let coltsfoot come in the chilly spring.

Let all we saw together still persist,
and let whichever of us sees it know
our seeing's still a sharing,
and all goings are the the turnings
of what never was
except our loving made it so.
---Richard Marshall

 

On Sunday November 26, 2006, we celebrated the life of our beloved friend Richard Marshall. Richard passed away with courage, dignity and peace late this summer.

He was not an extrovert, but when Richard touched a person's life, he invariably did so deeply. To twist an old phrase, he may have thought little of mankind, but he loved all decent people; and it showed. And so, some thirty of us, whose lives had so been touched profoundly by his, gathered at the highest meadow of his and Elizabeth Callahan's property in Otego, New York, in a clearing just below my old retreat cabin, to say goodbye with recitations of the "Heart" Sutra in Tibetan and English. Richard's lifelong (going back to their school days in Yorkshire) friend George scattered ashes from an earthen pot as we chanted. Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche had composed a short verse of wishing Richard well on his path to realization, and we chanted that as well.

We had already gathered earlier in a close circle in the farm house living room, taking turns reciting from his many volumes of verse and prose. Ivy read an excerpt from Richard's novel "Hannaville," in which the Dame de belles lettres of the town runs a writing competition in which each contestant is required to write an autobiography in 26 words, each word beginning with the next consecutive letter of the alphabet. A week later, the fictional protagonist sat over sponge cake in the Tooth Fairy Café and read (for us) the winning entries in the local paper. Only Richard could have pulled this off.

Richard overflowed with character. It is fair to say (I am sure he would agree) that he lived life on his own terms. He might have been less keen to admit that he was something of a guardian angel to me. He provided both physical space and the support of intellectually rigorous and unconditional friendship when I needed both to find my way forward through very hard times. He might even resent being characterized as a true dharma person, but in truth he was, no matter that he was also an iconoclast and faithful reader of "The Nation" to his last days. He was truthful, loyal, and a consummate practitioner of the lost art of good conversation. Everything interested him, attracting his ire or his admiration, with little in between. I thank you for your friendship. Until we meet again.