Thanks to Richard, I was easing my first 35mm camera out of its box. It was a recent purchase that Richard had approved as superior of the religious community to which we both belonged in 1977. The new apparatus, fascinating as it was, felt like a cold weight in my hands. I entrusted it to Richard for my opening lesson.
A scientist and a physics teacher, Richard handled my new camera with the same care he showed delicate lab equipment. A precision instrument would produce reliable results if it was handled with respect. He turned the lens cautiously and focused on different objects in his office. Then he delivered the camera back into my hands and said, “Play with it.”
Richard was fifteen years my senior, beginning his forties when I was a twenty-five-year-old novice teacher. In so many ways during the two years we lived together in community, Richard communicated the awareness that I produced reliable results when I was handled with respect. I would produce remarkable results, however, when I took delight in something.
What was I ready to take delight in?
I was a cautious young man, thoughtful and dutiful and conscientious, who two years earlier had fallen in love with a man in another city. Richard became one of the individuals to whom I could confide what had happened. Convinced that the wisdom I most needed was available within, Richard invited me to consider the two of us participating in a journaling workshop held in the area.
In time I was writing about interior landscapes and photographing exterior ones.
Charged with a stage in my formation to religious life, Richard was confident that the best roads for me were ones along which I could discover things for myself. His wisdom there is something for which I am grateful to this day.
Richard discovered things for himself as well; he eventually became a therapist and married the woman he loved. In an email from her last week I learned that on Christmas Eve Richard had received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Opening my laptop at home this past Saturday, I got to watch his funeral Mass broadcast live from the Georgia parish where Richard and Maureen had worshiped together.
The following day I was sitting in a friend’s kitchen. I wanted to give him an idea of Richard so I had brought along the journal from that workshop that Richard and I had made almost forty years ago. As I read aloud to my friend in his kitchen, I realized that no one since Richard had heard me read those words. I realized as well that the writer’s voice I had assumed at twenty-five when I knew someone would hear it who respected me was the voice I have kept using in my best writing.
Who would not take delight writing and reading for such a person?
Thank you, Richard.