Richard Carlson's Memorial
Tribute to Richard Carlson
Yesterday was one of the most magical, intense, love-filled, challenging, liberating, sad, celebratory days of my entire life. I had been asked by Richard's wife, Kris, to officiate his memorial service. I was honored, humbled, and terrified by this request...and, I said YES with gratitude! I, along with an exceptional group of Richard's family and friends, put a great deal of love, energy, and attention into putting together a service that was representative of his extraordinary life, would celebrate his huge capacity for love, and would bring love and healing to all of us grieving the loss of his life here on earth.
The service was transformational for me and for so many who were there. The intention had been for it to be "private," only close friends and family, based upon the request of Richard's teenage girls, Jazzy and Kenna. Even with this intention and without publicizing it, according to the people working at the church, there were 700 people there. In the midst of the deep sadness, the surreal shock, and the myriad of other intense emotions, the service was, as Richard would have wanted, a true celebration of his life and of life in general.
After a brief welcome to the church by Father Joyce, the head priest, Kris got up to speak first and was remarkable...so peaceful, present, and filled with love and gratitude for Richard. She set the tone for the service and was extremely inspiring to all of us. Jazzy and Kenna got up to join her and spoke from their hearts about their father and their love for him. Through their tears and their authentic expressions of love and sadness, they touched us all so deeply and displayed heart-felt courage and realness. It was hard to see and feel their pain, but it was inspiring to see them as the powerful and beautiful young women that they are. Richard would have been so proud...he was!
After Kris and the girls were done it was my turn to take over and officiate the service. I had a million thoughts and feelings running through me as I stood up. But, the moment I got the podium, I felt a deep calmness and peace come over me...it was Richard. He was there with me and with all of us and his spirit was palpable. I acknowledged Kris and the girls and asked all of us to take a moment and send some love to them. I spoke about the shock of Richard's death and the tendency that I have when something like this happens to "make sense of it." I said that I did not have the words or the understanding to make sense of Richard's death, but that one trap I and many of us fall into in a situation like this is trying to "figure it out" and also trying to grieve in the "right" way. I shared my own emotional process over the past 6 days - shock, sadness, anger, confusion, helplessness, fear, gratitude, joy, peace, love, and more. I reminded everyone, myself included, that there is no "right" way to feel, be, or act as we grieve. The only thing we can really do is be ourselves and honor our own unique emotional process.
I spoke about feeling, hearing, and seeing Richard everywhere this past week since he died. Through my own experience and through the stories of so many close to him, I was and still am amazed at how he continues to show up and be with us. We are clearly more than these physical bodies. I then led everyone in a prayer/blessing, asking God to bless this sacred gathering, to give us the courage to be, as Richard would have wanted us to be, fully present in this moment with all of our emotions, and to celebrate his life and the gift of life in general. After the prayer, I shared a few examples of how Richard touched my own life through his kindness and generosity, and, I reminded everyone that this service was a great opportunity for all of us to celebrate this amazing man, his extraordinary gifts, and all that he gave to us and the planet.
Then, I introduced the first of many people who were going to speak about Richard, his father, Don. As I sat down, I was overcome with emotions - both my sadness for Richard's death, as well as my gratitude for his life. As I introduced and listened to each person share:
Kris' father Ted, Kris' brother Brent (who sang the Lord's prayer), Richard's sister Anna (who spoke and sang), his dear friends Ben, Sheila, Joe, Jim, and Mitch who all spoke so passionately about their love for Richard...I was struck by the themes they all spoke about - love, kindness, family, light, and peace. More than their words, it was the feeling and the emotion behind the words. Richard touched the lives of millions through his work...and for those of us who had the extraordinary privilege of knowing him personally, he touched us all deeply with his magical and beautiful spirit and soul.
I sobbed at various time during the service, between my times to speak--tears of joy, sadness, love, grief, and peace. I was especially moved by the slide show that we played--beautiful photos from throughout Richard's life--what a magnificent life and what immense love!
After everyone had spoken and before the final song, I acknowledged everyone for being there, for their love, and for the courage of all who spoke and everyone who was grieving. So many amazing things were shared...and Richard taught us all so much - both in life and even in his death.
The final piece of the service was a song called "Love, Serve, and Remember." I introduced Rich and Yvonne Dutra-St. John, Richard's dear friends...and mine too. They introduced the song, which is one they use in their Challenge Day workshops. They had introduced this song to many of us, including Richard and Kris. It was one of Richard's favorite songs and he had it with him on the plane when he died. It is one of my favorites and I played it when I proposed to my wife, Michelle. A beautiful song, it spoke so perfectly to the life of Richard Carlson. Rich and Yvonne were able to get John Astin, the singer-songwriter who created this amazing song, to be at the service to sing it for all of us and for Richard. It was a very moving and beautiful way to end the remarkable service, celebration, and memorial to our dear brother Richard.
Once the service ended, I finally let go and just sobbed and sobbed in the arms of my wife, Michelle and others. Even with my own expressions of emotions during the service, I had held a lot of it in and it all came rushing out of me...which actually felt great. There is something magical about death, even in its sadness. It always makes me that much more aware of the gift of life. I still cannot believe Richard is gone and all that has taken place over this past week. I am sure it will take me a while to fully process it, integrate it all, and heal. I am, however, so very grateful for the life of Richard Carlson!
Thank you Richard - for all of your love, your generosity, and your kindness. You taught us all so much through your work and how you lived. And, you gave me so many gifts. I am sad that we will not be able to see each other and hug in physical form ever again. And, I am grateful for the time I got to spend with you. I look forward to continuing our connection, our relationship, and our love for one another. I feel you with me and know you will always be. I love you!
With Love and Blessings,