Advent and the Unexpected Vigil

Image: Heartbeat Liturgy © Jan L. Richardson

Friends, you may have already heard this news through another place or person that connects us, but in case you haven’t, I want to share an update with you and ask for your prayers. My amazing husband, Garrison Doles, is in the midst of a medical crisis that has turned our lives inside out. Last week, Gary went into the hospital to address a brain aneurysm that had been discovered during the summer (in a fluky fashion, in the process of checking out something else that proved not to be a problem). We had hoped he would be able to have a less invasive procedure called coiling, but the aneurysm proved too complex, and he was taken into surgery. During an eleven-hour surgery, Gary had a stroke, and has had two additional surgeries to address brain swelling. He has been in a medically induced coma and will be emerging from that over the course of the coming days.

We don’t yet know the extent of the damage from the stroke. Based on what Gary’s remarkable neurosurgeon is telling us, there is cause for great concern and great hope. I would be tremendously thankful for your prayers and good thoughts for Gary, his wondrous medical team, and our families.

Some kind folks have asked about the online Advent retreat that Gary and I were planning. I’ve decided to still offer it, with the understanding that it will look rather different than we originally planned. I find myself reluctant to give up the chance to walk through the coming season in the company of kindred spirits.

If you’re interested in entering Advent with your eyes wide open—looking honestly and anew at seemingly familiar Advent themes such as mystery, waiting, hope, keeping vigil, and longing for light in the deepest darkness—and if you’re game for a bit of adventure and uncertainty about what it will all look like, then this is the place for you. I’d love to travel in your company.

I’d be grateful if you would let other folks know about the retreat by sharing a link to this post or to the retreat overview page (Illuminated Advent Retreat) via Facebook or anywhere else you’re connected. This would be such a wonderful gesture of support for Gary and me in this time. Most of all, I would be so tremendously thankful for your prayers in these days of keeping vigil and beginning to navigate a road that we never imagined traveling.

I send you much gratitude and many blessings as Advent approaches.

Illuminated Advent Retreat

35 Responses to “Advent and the Unexpected Vigil”

  1. Beverly Brazier Says:

    you can be sure of my prayers, both of you, the doctors and nurses and everyone involved. May you know deeply the Presence. Blessings from here in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada.

  2. Jennifer Gingerich Says:

    My heart breaks at the news of your husband’s health struggles and I will be praying for you both. May you have all the support you need in this season of change, waiting, and journeying together with loved ones. And may you be filled with the Hope, Peace, Joy and Love of Christ as you experience the many emotions that come in the wake of such challenging circumstances.

  3. Kate Says:

    Dear Jan,
    I am so sorry to hear about Gary. I know you only through your lovely books, websites and postings on The Painted Prayerbook. I will pray for you both. The story of your love and marriage has been a sweet one and inspirational to me in this somewhat difficult world. I do not always have much faith in relationships, but just knowing that there are some, such as yours and Gary’s, that are based on mutual love, respect, and wonder for one another, is so touching. May God bless you, Kate.

  4. Laura Says:

    You and Gary and your families will definitely be in my prayers for full recovery. God works in mysterious ways and in this time may you grow deeper in wisdom, knowledge, grace and the love of God in Christ!


  5. Patrice Werner Says:

    Be assured that you and Gary are in my prayers. Not the Advent waiting you were preparing for, I know, but … how mysterious is our God’s coming!

    Patrice Werner, OP

  6. Carol Westphal Says:

    Prayers for you and Gary during this difficult time. Trust that the light, hope, and peace of Advent will surround you both and give you strength and healing each day.

  7. Lori Says:

    My prayers are with you both,asking the Great Physician to lay His powerful hands upon Gary and wrap you in His loving arms.

  8. Maureen Says:

    Oh, Jan; such heartbreaking news. I certainly will keep Gary and you in my prayers and thoughts. Please know that those of us who have been privileged to share any part of your journey in this life send our blessings and hold you both in our hearts. I know what strength can come from knowing others join hands and hold you close. We do for you and Gary.

    Wishing for the speediest recovery possible for Gary. In hope and Thanksgiving. May peace be with you.
    ~ Maureen

  9. Ruth Atterberry Says:

    Healing thoughts and prayers for Gary–Lord, in you mercy hear our prayer. And for the gift of this retreat, loving God, we give you thanks.

  10. Penny Jones Says:

    My prayers are with you and Gary at this difficult time. I know you only through the Lent retreat last year, but know the assurance that comes from being held before God in deep prayer. Thank you for being prepared to share your journey with us

  11. Christine Says:

    Prayers for your husband and you.

  12. Emily Blair Stribling Says:

    You have blessed me, as you have so many others, with your glorious work…I am so sorry to hear of Gary’s struggles…many prayers will be flowing…and may you feel the love and support of those who only know you through your work but who will be holding each one of you in prayer during this time of waiting…

  13. Anne Rawls Says:

    I am holding you both close and saying prayers. Take care and know that everyone is with you and Gary at this special time. anne

  14. Sallie Shippen Says:

    Jan, my prayers are with you and Gary, your families and all those who are caring for both your husband and you. May you find comfort and strength in this outpouring of love. Advent! … when the hope and the awesomeness of God are closer than ever. God bless you.

  15. Mary Olney-Loyd Says:

    Jan — we were together at the Grunewald guild in August. What a marvelous week that was due to the creativity of you and Gary. My prayers go out to you — that God’s healing will surround and uphold you both! May God’s peace be palpable for you and Gary now. Blessings.

  16. Kellyann Says:

    You and Gary absolutely have my prayers. I’m glad that the Advent retreat will be a source of strength for you.

  17. Marjun Blishen Says:

    Dear Jan, my prayers are with you and your husband. You are never alone but both in our loving God’s hands. God give you comfort. Marjun

  18. Laure Says:

    My faith is strong in Papa for your beloved. I thank Him for every way He provides for you in this season.

  19. Bonnie Wilcox Says:

    Peace as Christ walks with you and your husband through this tragedy. May all be well with you.

  20. earthchick Says:

    Jan, you and Garrison are in my prayers. I have never actually met you, but I am connected to you through Candler (I arrived the fall after you graduated) and many, many mutual friends (plus I am a longtime fan of your books and your blog). My husband has had some serious medical issues in the years we have been together, including an AVM (similar to an aneurysm – his ruptured years before we were married, and was handled through open surgery at that time; after we were married it recurred, and was handled via coiling). Anyway, I am intimately acquainted with the vulnerability of caring for someone in an extreme medical situation. It is very tender and very intense and very scary.

    It sounds like you are in good hands with the medical care Garrison is receiving, and we know you are both in God’s good hands as well. I am praying for you both.

  21. Paulette Boyt Says:

    Jan – Prayers, prayers, prayers are with you. God does really deep things when peril seems imminent. I went through a similar circumstance (only different medical conditions) with my husband early in this year. I still have him by a miracle of God and I am a different person for going through this season. paulette

  22. Mark Fischer Says:

    You both are in my prayers as well as those of my parish.

  23. Bruce Case Says:

    I am praying for you and and Gary. You have helped to deepen my walk through your words, art, and compassion. May you and Gary feel every thought, prayer, and groan offered up. May the communion of saints, known and unknown, wrap around you like a worn quilt. Healing prayers offered up in the name of the One who calls and heals.

  24. Joyce Proctor Says:

    I am saddened to hear of your husband’s health issues. My prayers go out to you and Gary, the doctors and your family. May God’s Spirit comfort you at this time of need.

  25. Donna LEAVITT Says:

    Dear jan
    You have been my very own blessing, your thoughts and blessings-poems have helped me so many times in the past year. My son passed away last year,while no one can fully understand another’s pain…just know that you and your beloved are in my prayers for courage and wisdom and comfort

  26. Gerry Gospe Says:

    Dear Jan,

    I join with many others in a circle of hopeful expectation. Blessings and prayers heal in many ways. We know this to be true. I offer my heart felt prayers during this time of waiting

    Gerry Gospe

  27. Rev. Jean Marchant Says:

    Dear Jan,
    You and Gary are in my thoughts and prayers during this time of challenge. May you experience the presence of the Divine in an ever deepening way, and may those providing care be inspired by Wisdom’s hand. Thank you for all you are and share so generously with us!

    Loving blessings,

  28. DeAnn Miller Says:

    Sending prayers of healing and hope to you and Gary. Your poems have carried me through so many bad times, I hope you can find renewed solace in them.

  29. Shawn Says:

    Prayers for healing and for peace in the midst of this storm, Jan.

  30. Barbara Wise Lewczak Says:

    Continued Prayers for you and your families. Please keep us informed. I wish I was there to give you a hugs hug but please know that hugs for both of you are sent across the miles . All of us at in the Iowa Church of the Brethren family are praying fervently. Much Love

  31. Hilary Campbell Says:

    Prayers of Advent hope, healing and peace continuing for you both.

  32. Marian Maxwell Sims Says:

    I found this site for the first time today. I am an American living in Asia so with the time change I am all ready on day 2 of the advent season while America is finishing day 1. After reading the e book I purchased yesterday I decided to visit your blog. I am now praying for you and your husband. My family has had a member suffer a stroke .I will continue to lift you up as I read each day of the advent journey.

  33. Daniel Imburgia Says:

    May God bless you and your husband with grace and healing. I have ardently (but silently) admired your art and words for a long time but now I want to express my healing intentions. Blessings and so much obliged.

  34. pamela graham Says:

    Dear Jan,

    while reading Night Visions this morning I was overcome with sadness then arrived at my computer to find Beth Richardson’s facebook post about Gary’s death…I am so sorry and so sad. He blessed us with his words and his music as you have also blessed us with your words – opening your heart to us. may God hold you tightly, may the love of all of us out here be a comfort, may the darkness hold not fear – but warm embrace. peace and blessings, Pam

  35. janet buchanan Says:

    Dear Friends of Jan & Gary,
    I am a friend and fellow member of Jan’s monastic community, St. Brigid’s. Since Jan and Gary were both self-employed artists, one can only imagine the financial challenges that lay ahead.
    To assist Gary’s family during this most difficult time – the Garrison Doles Memorial Fund has been created. Deposits can be made to the fund at any PNC bank or by mailing a check to any PNC bank branch. Later today, we will also have this account tied to PayPal so credit card donations can be accepted as well.
    For any questions or more information please email –

    If you would like to send a donation by credit card or paypal – send an email with your contact information AND the amount you would like to contribute to – – An invoice will then be generated and sent to your email address which you can click to pay.

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