Vaya con Dios, Richard
by John Welshons
Like millions of fellow human beings whose hearts are heavy this holiday season because someone they dearly love has died, my heart is heavy in this moment with deep sadness over the loss of my beloved friend, Richard Carlson, author of the fabulously successful Don't Sweat the Small Stuff book series.
Richard died this past Wednesday, December 13th, very unexpectedly at the age of 45 while onboard a flight from San Francisco to New York City. Apparently he got on the plane that morning, expressed that he was tired, went to sleep, and did not wake up.
As with every opportunity we had to be together, he and I were looking forward to his visit to New York with great excitement. We were planning to spend the day together in the City on Friday. We were also planning a visit in California in January, to make excursions to Maui and India in the future . . . and, perhaps, to write and teach together at some point.
Richard was one of the most magnificent human beings I have ever known, and one of the finest friends I have ever had. He was totally unimpressed with his own success. He remained humble, and invariably kind, friendly, and generous in every sense of the term. It is so easy for people who have acheived the kind of success Richard achieved to become full of ego and self-importance. Richard skillfully avoided that trap. He cared deeply about others. He was beloved by thousands of people to whom he gave his very special, one-pointed, focused attention. His books and audio programs have touched the lives of over 40 million people around the world. Yet he was always a beautiful listener, totally focused on whoever he was interacting with in the moment. He was deeply interested in what others had to say. He would look at you intently with his radiant smile and crystal blue eyes, and say, "yes . . . yes . . . yes" as he listened to your words, and to your heart.
I have never known a man who was more in love with his family than Richard. It was clear that everything else in his life came second to them. Every decision, every plan, every consideration had to be evaluated - first - to determine whether or not it would have an impact on his time with his family. His beautiful wife Kris, and his wonderful daughters Jazzy and Kenna were always in his thoughts and in his heart. He spoke about them constantly, with such abundant love and delight. He was a true embodiment of the concept of the "family unit." His every thought was couched in terms of his role as a part of that "unit" - four beings dancing as one. Kris, Jazzy, and Kenna have my deepest and most heartfelt love and support as they work to integrate this seemingly unimaginable new reality into their lives . . . as do Richard's parents, Don and Barbara Carlson, and his sisters, Kathleen and Anna.
Sometimes people refer to me as an "expert" in the field of grief. Each time I hear that, I recall Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' admonition on the first day I studied with her. "Don't ever think of yourself as an 'expert.' There are no experts in this field. There are only 'learners.'"
My friend, Richard, is teaching this "learner" yet once again . . . that life is completely unpredictable . . . that there is no real security or certainty other than Love, because all else . . . everything we remember in the past, and everything we imagine and hope for in the future . . . is all a dream. All we have is Now. And all we really need . . . is Love.
And, unlike most men in our culture, Richard was never shy or embarassed about expressing warmth and affection. He never ended a visit or a conversation without saying, "I Love You, My Friend." And you knew, just in the tenor of his voice, and the beautiful vibration of his heart . . . that he really meant it.
He is also reminding me how very much our human hearts can hurt in these moments. Mine is hurting deeply right now about the prospect of having to "give up" the delight of his loving, vibrant presence . . . and our many - sometimes serious and "meaningful," other times hilariously playful - phone calls and emails. I will miss the many opportunities I anticipated to spend time with him in the future.
But my "spiritual" heart is overflowing with gratitude and joy that Richard walked this Earth among us, that he cared so deeply about this planet, and everyone on it . . . and that I had the opportunity to walk alongside him from time to time.
During the Christmas season, in a very real sense, we are celebrating the manifestation of Soul . . . Spirit . . . Divinity in form. Richard Carlson was a shining example of the beauty of that manifestation . . . the Light that awakens when our human life becomes a true vehicle for the expression of the Divinity within.
He was a true friend. A wonderful human being.