Beloved: A Blessing for Garrison Doles

Best Day Ever

O my dear friends. For those who don’t already know, I need to tell you that my beloved husband slipped peacefully from this world on December 2, enfolded in the love and presence of our family and the encompassing of the God who entrusted him to us. I don’t need to tell you that I am heartbroken beyond imagining. Please know that the prayers you offered for Gary and all of us provided such solace and sustenance during our vigil with Gary, and will continue to do so as our family finds our way through the coming days. Months. Lifetime.

We held a service to celebrate Gary’s life last Friday afternoon. It was heartbreaking and hopeful and wonderfully beautiful. It included much music. Gary’s amazing son, Emile, in whom Gary’s gift of song lives strong, opened the service by singing Gary’s song “Raise This Hour.” Gary’s also-amazing brothers sang, and Gary’s own recordings, including two guitar meditations he created for our Illuminated Advent Retreat, provided the opening and closing music. I can’t tell you enough to do the service justice−how honoring it was of Gary and how much solace it provided for mebut I want to share with you some words I wrote for that day. This is a brief remembrance and a blessing for my remarkable, beloved husband; for those who gathered to remember and grieve and celebrate; and now for you. Our dear friends Peg and Chuck Hoffman, who had so recently shared in our wedding, read these words for me.


In the entirety of my life, what I am most proud of is this: that when Gary Doles crossed my path, I recognized him. Every single day, I knew what I had in him. This also means that I know all too keenly, with the precision of a knife’s edge, what I have lost, and all too soon.

I think we have all been carrying the sense of how horribly unfair this is. And it is. In the midst of my devastation and desolation, I have also been remembering some of the stories that Gary would tell me about his life. I won’t tell you the stories just now, but I will tell you that it is a marvel and a miracle that Gary Doles survived long enough for me to meet him. And for that I give thanks. Along with the heartbreak, I will always carry such deep gratitude for the years we had together, and for the extravagant grace of loving and being loved by him. Still.

After Gary died on Monday, surrounded by the prayers and the presence of our remarkable family, I stayed in the room as his nurse removed everything that had helped to keep him alive during the awful and beautiful vigil that we had kept with him for eighteen days. I watched as she removed the ventilator tube that had kept him breathing, watched as she took out the seemingly innumerable lines that had delivered medications. Finally Gary was shed of everything that had kept him living, everything that had tethered him until it became clear that nothing would return him to us. I placed my hand against his chest, and commented to the nurse that it felt so strange to feel a heartbeat, and know that it was only my own pulse. She said, “His heart beats in you now.”

In me. In us. Thank you for being part of the life of my husband whose heart beat with such strength and continues to echo in us still.

Where Your Song Begins Again
A Blessing

I could not bear it
if this blessing ended
with the final beat
of your heart,

if it left
with the last breath
that bore you away
from here.

I could not stand
the silence,
the stillness
where all
had once been song,
had been story,
had been the cadenced liturgy
of your life.

So let it be
that this blessing
will abide
in the pulse
that moves us
from this moment
to the next.

Let it be
that you will breathe
in us here bereft
but beloved still.

Let it be
that you will make your home
in the chamber
of our heart

where your story
does not cease,
where your words
take flesh anew,
where your song
begins again.

136 Responses to “Beloved: A Blessing for Garrison Doles”

  1. Mary Kay Says:

    Dear Jan,
    Oh my heart breaks for you, and I get the chills when I read what you have written this day about yourself, about Gary. I remember when you all first met. Then I was blessed to be with the two of you when you came to Richmond for a workshop. Rob and I send our love and care to you. You will remain in our prayers as we give thanks for Gary’s precious life.
    Peace my friend, MK

  2. Donna Says:

    Oh my. Your words, even in this time of extreme sorrow, are such a gift to all who hear and read them. My prayers are with you and your family. God bless you all.

  3. Diane Harvey Says:


    My heart is broken for you; and yet, I will continue to carry you and all Gary’s loved ones in that broken heart as I have ever since you first wrote of his stroke. Thank you for what you shared of the service – what beautiful words of blessing and love. Know that ever morning as I walk along the coastline of southern Maine I will carry you with me and ask the wind and waves to bring you comfort and peace.


  4. vicki rhew Says:

    prayers of comfort to you and your family. Your word such a gift!. Gary no longer suffers divine healing. The choir have received his talent of music. Prayers sorry to hear of your loss

  5. Bonni-Belle Pickard Says:

    Thank you, from far away in London, for sharing this — and Gary — with us all.

  6. Cathy Cornue Says:

    Dear Jan,

    With tears in my eyes, I am praying for you in your loss. May all your memories of Gary be sweet and help to keep him alive in your heart.
    And, may you find comfort in the image of him wrapped in Christ’s loving arms, singing a song of love for you.


  7. Kathy Says:

    You are in my heart, my prayers…
    Unknown but in Spirit, this sharing of grief
    of love, of remembrance, of the stillness and grace of the moment.
    With all that you have given
    the light, the presence, the blessings…
    with all that has been now been gently taken
    I grieve for you and everyone you love.

    My hands together and raised,

  8. Susan Says:

    Sweet Jan: We do not really know one another, but you have been on my heart through all of this. Your written words for your husband, Gary, are so beautiful and honoring of him and your life together. Please know that when you feel so low, so weak. so bereft, that you are held in the prayers of those who you don’t even know. SG

  9. Emily Blair Stribling Says:

    alleluia, alleluia …he is risen to that new life in God…prayers flowing for you and your family…

  10. Stefan Eicher Says:

    Dear Jan,

    I am so so sorry to hear this news. I met Gary briefly, there in Orlando over that lunch meal in the church auditorium where the Limners made excited acquaintance with you both, and remember wishing I had a chance to know more about him and his music.

    Thank you for sharing this deeply, beautifully moving experience, image, idea. It brought tears to my eyes. How we hope for life, even in death, and how we find life, even in death!

    May you be comforted in the silence by this hope.

    In grief,


  11. Hilary Campbell Says:

    My heart sank to read your news, and still there is gratitude and blessing. Though I can’t imagine how you carry the hurt and loss, may you find the strength to take the next steps into tomorrow, with the love you have known and is still in your heart. x

  12. Suzanne Stultz Says:

    Please know that Gary, you, and your family will remain in my prayers as long as my own heart beats.

  13. Marcia Says:

    Thank you Jan, for sharing these beautiful words. You are being thought of by many in Colorado.

  14. Yvonne Riege Says:

    Poignant and fitting words for this special time of remembrance. My eyes are moist. May you sense that God is holding you in Loving Hands, Jan.

  15. Sue Says:

    Oh Jan, what a sharing of the grace and depth of your two shared lives which will now live on in you alone.
    Alone but not so.
    Be assured of the love and prayers from so many whose lives you have touched.
    Be assured of the grace and peace and love of God surrounding you now and always.
    From across the ocean.

  16. Maureen Says:

    Yours are among the most beautiful words of love I have ever read, Jan. Your life together was such an inspiration.

    I believe we are given hearts so that we can carry forever within us the presence of those we love. May you always carry your true love’s song. May that song always give your comfort in dark hours. May peace be always with you.

    In deepest sympathy and with love. ~ Maureen

  17. Ric Says:

    May God’s peace, love, and grace enfold you.

  18. Dr. Bill Hardwick Says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. May Gary rest in peace and rise in glory with Christ. May you know the love and comfort of God’s unceasing care.

  19. Lisabeth Gustafson Says:

    Saddened and moved beyond anything I have experienced in a long time.
    As Gary’s heart beats in you now, your sharing this remembrance….his music with us in retreat….it beats through us too.
    I have kept vigil too and continue to encircle you in prayer.
    Blessings and grace and mercy to you.

  20. myron Says:

    Dearest Jan and family,
    There are no adequate words. Know that you are deeply, deeply loved and enveloped in loving prayers. Deepest Peace, Myron and Juana

  21. pamela graham Says:

    Dear Jan,
    I remember meeting you and Gary in Denver a couple of years ago…how I was blessed and enthralled with his music and your words…my heart aches for you…may God hold you with the promise of love and light. Thank you for allowing us to share this time with you and may our love and prayers be comfort.
    blessings, Pam

  22. Janie Seltzer Says:

    Jan, you do not know me . . . but I must reach out and say that the beauty of your love and the beauty of your words above are stunning. A gift to the world. Yes, let it be. . . .
    Warmly in Christ, Janie Seltzer

  23. Ruth Atterberry Says:


    Your beautiful words not only draw my heart toward the place of your loss but also offer strength and consolation for its own losses. Through these words, Gary’s heart beats even in another who never knew the joy his acquaintance. Thank you.

  24. lori Says:

    My condolences, my prayers are with you and your family. I just came from the memorial of a very dear friend when I opened your email and my heart was pierced with, not pain, but peace. I Pray that that peace enters you and helps you through this time of grief.

  25. Barbara Says:

    Dear Jan

    Words cannot express how sorry I am to hear of Gary’s death. What a difficult time for you and for all who cared for and loved him. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. And know too how much I appreciate your art and writing.

  26. Robbye Says:

    Dear Jan,

    I was very saddened and shocked to read this news today. I almost got to meet and work with Gary. I enjoyed talking with him over the phone, but we could never work out a date or arrangement for him to come play at my church. I started reading your Illuminated Advent Readings last year and have enjoyed the devotions you share. May God bring you His peace and comfort as you treasure Gary’s memory and music. For His Sake, Robbye Drane

  27. Rafael Vallejo Says:

    I will keep the prayer for Garrison. And my hope is that somebody will say it at my funeral.

  28. Connie Burkholder Says:

    Dear Jan,
    I am so, so sorry to hear of this news of Gary’s illness and passing. I experienced the two of you working together last April at Bethany Seminary’s Presidential Forum and witnessed how well you worked together and blessed each other’s ministry. I hold you in prayer for God’s continuing comfort, grace, and strength in this time of heartbreak. Peace. Peace. Peace.

  29. Kellyann Says:

    Though I have never met either of you in the flesh, my heart breaks for you. I am thankful for the immense faith, hope, and love you show in these words–thankful that they will bear you up and give you light when you are at your lowest and most dark. You have my continued prayers.

  30. Sharon Elliott-Fox Says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. When my husband died (age 58) I felt as though half of me had been torn away, leaving raw and bleeding edges. Family and Friends and my work help to bind up those wounds. But the scars remain and I touch them lovingly, remembering all that was good and happy about a wonderful man. May memories hold you in a warm embrace each day.

  31. Sandra Says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful tribute with us Jan, you really are a special person with an amazing gift of giving yourself even in the depths of sadness and loss. Whilst reading I am there with you in your grief and love for Gary even though I have never met either of you. My heart and my arms embrace you Jan, may God hold you tenderly close to his heart. With love and prayers, Sandra.

  32. Jean Hodges Says:

    Dear Jan, thank you for sharing a beautiful love story that has no end. It now moves to a spiritual plane but it is felt in the heartbeat and pulse of you and all those who loved Gary. I don’t even really know you, but I am deeply moved by what you wrote. My heart breaks for you. I love how you express both grief and appreciation for the wonderful gift of love you have received. I must hold on to that thought for when I must part from my husband of 58 years.

  33. sharon Says:

    Please know I am breathing with you.

  34. Georgeanna Driver Says:

    So much love so much talent, so much sharing, so much witnessing…….Praise God that Gary’s heart beat now rests in you. May you find peace and comfort in the Everlasting Arms.

  35. Cathi Everett Says:

    Jan, I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine the pain. May God surround you the loving presence of those who hold and sustain you and may you know the light of God’s countenance shining on the path before you. Blessings, Cathi

  36. Marcia Says:

    Dear Jan,

    May the love of God embrace you and hold you, giving you place and time to mourn, to cry, to not understand, to miss him.
    Love, Marcia

  37. Carol Dennison Says:

    I was so sorry to learn of your husband’s death. May God grant you peace, comfort and the courage to carry on. Thank you for the beautiful poem. It helped me and will help many others who also mourn. I will continue to hold you and your family and his in my prayers.

  38. Elaine Dent Says:

    For so many of us, you and Gary have shared your gifts—entwined and beautiful in their companioning. As we have known God’s mercy through you both, may you know God’s healing mercy in the times to come.

  39. Nancy Phipps Says:

    My heart breaks for you and your family. You both shared your gifts with many of us. And I feel as if in a small part I know you both so well. Thank you for sharing with us, and know that we have kept you in our thoughts and prayers. Your words are comforting, and I read through the tears that fell down my face. For the nurse to say those beautiful words to you, was so thoughtful, as if she knew your love story. May God comfort you in these days of endings and new beginnings. You are wrapped in love and prayers from Kansas, and know how much you both have touched my life in your words, art and music. And as one of my favorite hymns say, don’t forget to lean on His everlasting arms and love.

  40. Ann Hinz Says:

    Wow, Jan, your words are so beautiful and so heart wrenching. Marv and I continue to hold you and your family in prayer. God bless you always.

  41. Susan Stanewick Says:

    What a beautiful message in tribute to your beloved! I thank you for the way you described the heartbeat. I was with my best friend in the hospital when she transitioned, thankful that I could be there and hold her hand. I did not think of how her heartbeat might continue to beat in me so I am saving your message. I will share it with others who will also find solace in your expression of love along with your beautiful poetry. I’m so sorry for your loss. You have a hole in your heart but the beat is there. With love and God’s blessings.

  42. Barbara Wise Lewczak Says:

    Jan Thank you so much for sharing this with us. We love you and continue to pray and we deeply share your grief and sadness as well!

  43. Melanie Says:

    Our hearts beat with yours.

  44. terri Says:

    Holding you in love and prayer. No doubt the gaping hole in your heart from the death of Gary is now a part of you….in that gaping hole will always reside your love for Gary and his love for you. Over time the ragged edges of that love ripped open will soften even as the gaping hole remains, for it will always be the place where your love rests, and nothing else will fill it. I am so very sorry, my heart breaks for your loss.

  45. Linda Springer Says:

    Thank you for sharing your words here. I’ve carried a strange sense of suffering and mercy in me since I heard the news of your beloved husband’s death. Not ever having met him, still I grieve. In God’s mercy, his music and words from the Lenten Retreat reside within in a way unexpected. It is so tangible in this moment…we are one, the body of Christ. May my prayers come to you as peace, surrounding you in love.

  46. Sandy Olewine Says:

    Dear Jan,

    It is a mark of the time in which we live that our hearts can feel the sorrow and pain of loss even for those whom we have never met. But for a number of years your words, your art, and Gary’s music have been a sustaining, creating and enlivening presence in my journey. You have both made the Holy present for me in ways even beyond my knowing. I have been holding you in prayer throughout these days and have invited many others to do so as well. I continue in that amazing circle of humanity that is holding you up through prayer, grateful to you, for you and so very, very sorry for your grief. Trusting in this dark night, you will know deeply the presence of the Holy One walking and wailing and waiting with you.

  47. Sue Joiner Says:

    You take my breath away, Jan. I ache with you and pray for the light to gently enter the darkness of these days. We are with you, my beautiful friend. I love you, Sue

  48. Julie Webb Says:

    At the beginning of my sabbatical in 2011, I was in Gary’s storytelling class at the Grunewald Guild. It was very clear that he recognized you as the wonderful surprise of his life, an undeserved heart’s-treasure.
    Mercy! We hold your broken heart in prayer.

  49. Clare Chance Says:

    Dearest Jan, that was the most beautifully loving memorial I have ever experienced. I immediately sent it to Tony, because I needed to share it with him– I know you understand that. You have honored Gary with your love, with your words, with your ability to share the best of what God offers to us in this world. Thank you for sharing these soul-deep feelings with those of us who will never forget Gary, who will always love the way he loved you, who will always listen to and love his music… You are in my prayers and Gary will remain in my heart.

  50. Cindy Wannall Says:

    Dear Jan, It is with heavy heart that I write to you now. Bob and I send prayers to you and all who you hold dear. We have known you for quite some time and could see thru you the joy you and Gary shared as God blessed the two of you together.
    We will keep our prayers for you and families going as you all begin this next part of your journey. As another dear friend, who has lost her husband. I believe your gift of writing and creating will be of great comfort to you over the next month’s and years. You will having the opportunity to share Gary in so very many ways.
    If we can help in anyway, please call.
    Love to you and your families.
    As always in His grace,
    Cindy and Bob

  51. Melanie Says:

    May the Lord hold you near to his heart as you are always surrounded by his tender mercy and grace. What beautiful love you have known and will know in this difficult journey through loss and the enlarging of your heart. All the saints surround you to walk with you, grieve with you, intercede for you. Be held, dear one, be held.

    Come, Lord Jesus, be light in the darkness.

  52. Janet Crawley Says:

    Dear Jan, My heart aches for your loss. Your remembrance of Gary is so beautiful it brings tears to me. I have been following your writing in the painted prayer book and hoped one day to attend one of your beautiful retreats and meet both of you. Know that my prayers are sent out to you.

  53. Ruth Parry Says:

    Prayers for you all from the north of England. Jan – there will always be a Gary shaped space in your heart where your love for him and his for you will live forever in a beautiful way. My prayers are with you.

  54. Anne Linington Says:

    Jan, sending my love from the UK and the prayers of Prayerwall for you and the family on your loss. Thankyou for sharing your heart and this wonderful blessing. Praise to God.

  55. claire bangasser Says:

    I can feel and understand your own pain. I am with you in prayer now and for the time to come. I have followed your loving relationship with your husband for quite a while now and have always found it beautiful and inspiring.
    I think the nurse was right: Both your hearts are now beating within you and he is undoubtedly by your side in an invisible form.
    May blessings on you and yours.

  56. Pat Turk Says:

    Love leaves behind more than Death takes away. Sorry for your loss.

  57. Paul McKay Says:

    So sorry for your loss and praying for you and the family in your walk with Christ through this valley.

  58. Andrea Westkamp, OSB Says:

    Dear Jan, thanks for sharing your grief with us and the amazing realization that Gary will live on in you. I can only attempt to imagine what your own mourning must be like at this point. Yes, indeed, your Advent has been very altered. As we move toward the feast of the incarnation, may the life-giving power of the incarnation enfold you. The incarnation keeps on giving. May you feel its consoling energy1

  59. Carole Parmeter Dyer Says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us, Jan. I cannot begin to know the pain of your loss, but wanted to say that I am sending Love and Light your way. Your art and words have blessed my life and the life of many women in my prayer groups as we use your Sacred Journeys Book, and Advent Book. Your “Magnificat” hangs on the wall of my office and I love how it nourishes my soul. Deep peace to you. Your sister in Christ, Carole.

  60. ann kendrick Says:

    Dear Jan and extended family far and wide,

    Your Sisters in Apopka are walking with you in spirit as are the folks who knew and remember you from our occasional times together. We send you our love and our recognition of you and the deep soul who you are. Some how your words and images coming from that deep spirit place will find a way to comfort you and help you heal from this terrible loss..and yes Gary’s heart beats in yours and yours has and continues to inspire and disturb and sooth so many

  61. Claudette Derdaele Says:

    Thank you so much for posting these words Jan. We (Hugh and I) have so desired to share a big hug with you.
    Know that our prayers continue for you and Emile and all who loved Gary.
    I was just listening to River’s Voice “God Is Holding Your Life” and thought of you. These are the words of prayer I send your way.
    “God is holding your life.
    God is holding your life.
    God is holding your life.
    We believe”

  62. Jean and David Evans Says:

    Thank you, dear Jan, for sharing your thoughts and verse with all who know and love you.
    We share your great sadness in losing one as special as Gary. The depth of his loving spirit
    is so evident in all that you write about him.
    Know that you will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers as you continue on this
    With dearest love and blessings, Jean and David

  63. leti hawthorn Says:

    Dear Jan – thank you so much for your writing and for living your life authentically. Your blessing has so many resonances for me, having lost my best friend of 27 years to breast cancer on 1st September. You are such a blessing to us all. May the Divine Essence fill your being to nourish you as you grieve, may the Divine Light surround you with hope and joy and may the Divine Spark boost you as you face the world anew.

    Blessed be!

  64. Phil Ewing Says:

    Dear Jan, I have been away and so only came across your post in my e mail yesterday. I am so shocked and saddened to read of Gary’s death. God bless you and your family at this acute time of sadness and please know you are held in prayer and love.

  65. Jeanne Maxon Says:

    I join with others who were blessed by your words in sending sympathy and prayers.

  66. Jan Benskin Says:

    Dear Jan,

    I was so sorry to hear about Gary. Thank you for sharing your beautiful blessing with us. I send prayers of healing to ease the pain and pray that your beautiful memories will bring comfort.

  67. Susan Slotter Says:

    Dearest Jan, I read your note before Advent started of the news about Gary – sharing there was cause for “great concern and great hope.” Somehow, truly, I had only great hope, and am shocked to read only days later of his passing. I am so grateful to have been introduced to and experienced Gary in your exquisite collaborative Lenten Return earlier this year. The depths of heart and soul in his lyrics and music, as you read in all the responses, consistently brought chills and tears of recognition and gratitude for their truth and spirit. Chills and tears are too my response now to learn that Gary is on the other side. I know that nothing could ever separate you from his love and God’s love pouring through him over your own beautiful life and soul. Jan, Full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women. I stand with you in grief. With love, Susan

  68. Barbara Stanbridge,IHM Says:

    Jan, know that IHM sisters hold you and all those who love Gary in prayer. Thank you for sharing this journey into Holy Mystery with us.

  69. Kay Stewart Says:

    Dear Jan,

    I’m touched beyond words by your blessing for Gary, and by the love and light that flows in, through, and between you, even now. What a precious and holy gift. Your gracious spirit shines so brightly, even in the midst of grief. I’m deeply saddened by your loss, and my heart hurts. The artful words, images, and music you and Gary offer through the Illuminated retreat continue to break my heart wide open. Deep bow of gratitude, awe, and reverence for you and for the legacy Gary leaves. What a beautiful life, well-lived. What an exquisite love. . .With sighs too deep for words, know I’m praying for you, Jan.

  70. Pastor Nancy L. Russell Says:

    God’s Daughter Jan, Dear Jan….

    I just wanted to send you my deepest sympathy. I feel I know you a both a bit through your ministry of word —and music from the Painted Prayerbook.

    Thank you. May all you shared in this remembrance carry you forth. May the Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace comfort and strengthen you now and always.

    In love and constant prayer, Nancy (Pastor in Central NY)

  71. Sandra Lommasson Says:

    Dear One,

    You are held – as your Gary was and is held – in circles of love and prayer beyond your knowing. My heart – our hearts – break with yours and celebrate with yours the extraordinary gift of love and life you embody together even now.

    In prayerful, continuing vigil,

    Sandra Lommasson

  72. Mary Olney-Loyd Says:

    Dear Jan,

    Your words moved me. With beauty and grace you describe this experience of grief and gratitude. My heart goes out to you — it was my blessing to work with both of you this August at the Grunewald Guild. May God’s peace surrround you and provide you what you need.

  73. Sara Smolenski Says:

    Dear Jan,
    May you be strengthened by the love of all those who surround you. As sure as life, Gary will always live within you. Feel the love and know that we hold you in our prayers. Be comforted to know the arms of Jesus embrace you. Peace, Sara Smolenski. Grand Rapids, MI

  74. Beth Royalty Says:

    Dear Jan: you don’t know me of course; I have followed your work for a couple of years-your blessings, your art, your writings, have sustained me and inspired me beyond measure. May God comfort you with unending love, hold you in His hands and keep you safe in this tender, heartbreaking time. I am so, so sorry .

  75. Patsy Roe Says:

    Jan, my heart cries for you. May God truly keep you close in His arms, so close that you will indeed feel the beat of His heart. May He comfort you and give you His peace, His hope, His strength. I do so look forward to your entries and especially your poetry. May many prayers hold you up and in them may you find sustenance and courage . . .

  76. nik Says:

    Dear Jan
    I was so very, very sorry to hear your news via the RevGals. Although we don’t really know each other, please do know that my thoughts and prayers are with you: may God enfold you and surround you and give you strength.

  77. Don Richter Says:

    Dear Jan,

    As you journey through this dark and lonesome valley, I join the host of others who are holding you in the Light and praying that God’s loving arms embrace you. ~ Don

  78. Susan Maybeck Says:

    Thank you Jan for sharing your words and your feelings. I didn’t know your story with Gary, but clearly he was a wonderful partner to you in your ministry. God bless you as you grieve and remember.

  79. Daniel Imburgia Says:

    Your words are such a blessing to many who also have known such loses. Perhaps this poem by Mark Nepo will speak to you as it has to me in the past.

    My soul tells me, we were
all broken from the same name –

    less heart, and every living thing
wakes with a piece of that original

    heart aching its way into blossom.

    This is why we know each other
below our strangeness, why when
we fall, we lift each other, or when
in pain, we hold each other, why
when sudden with joy, we dance
together. Life is the many pieces
of that great heart loving itself
back together.


    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Daniel, thanks so kindly for your words and for sharing this poem by Mark Nepo. It is beautiful and came as a great blessing to me. Thank you and bless you for your thoughtfulness!

  80. Donna LEAVITT Says:

    Dear jan
    I know there are simply no words that can be said to help with the pain you feel. I know when you wake in the morning …it all feels unreal. I can only Thankyou for the messages and poems that you have shared with me,and slowly ever so slowly acceptance appears. I’m so very,very sorry

  81. Wendy Tobias Says:

    I am praying for you and your family in deep compassion as one who felt only my own heartbeat when I touched my daughter Kathryn’s twenty-four year old chest some ten years ago now following a fatal car crash. Your honoring of Gary especially in ‘Where Your Song Begins Again’ reached out through my little MacBook and comforted me as I prayed for you. Isn’t that how this journey works… this encircling of each other in love and agony, sorrow and hope? Go deep. I am so sorry.

  82. Susan Halvor Says:

    My heart too aches for you, Jan. Your words and images have been balm for my spirit and brought me a feeling of home while calling me deeper and encouraging me to push farther. Your clear joy at meeting and loving Gary has been such a gift and blessing. May we, though many of us have not yet been able to meet you in flesh, hold you with live, with gentleness, with grace and hope in the midst of this grief. Love from Alaska.

  83. Jan Richardson Says:

    My beautiful friends, thank you for your words, your kindness, your prayers that are of such comfort in these heartbreaking days. Thank you for taking the time to reach out; each word you have offered means more than you can know. Bless you. Thank you. Bless you still.

  84. Mary Says:

    Jan – On my desk I still sit with these words from Neruda that you wrote out on a scrap of paper during a class at Grunewald some years ago: “We need to sit on the rim of the well of darkness and fish for fallen light with patience.” What a painfully dark well has called you to its edge…. may light within and light without eventually find its way back into your life. My prayers remain with you…. – Mary

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Mary, thank you! I remember this; those words, your wondrous presence during that Grünewald week. Thank you for returning these words to me in such a dark time.

      It was so lovely to see you when Gary and I were at the Convocation in Seattle/Bellevue last spring—such a wonderful treat to run into you in the hallway. I send you many blessings and much gratitude. Thank you again.

  85. Evie Miller Says:

    I am so sorry for your loss, was so saddened to hear this news. We get the people we love for such a short time, and yours was horribly short. Try to focus on the good times you had with Gary. This and your friends and loved ones will help you get through it. You had him fully, of that I can tell.

    Evie Miller
    (friend of Bev Selby)

  86. Dale Says:

    Beloved Blessings to you
    and thank you for your sharing.

  87. Cindy Weber Says:

    Jan, I speak as one who doesn’t know you, but loves your blessings and your poetry. May the blessing of unknown friends surround you at this time.

    Cindy Weber

  88. Amy Says:

    You do not know me. I’m a UMC pastor in my 30’s who discovered your website when I first started sermon prep during seminary. I deeply related to your words and felt in you a kindred spirit as I read your writing. As a young female pastor, I was empowered by how God used you in ministry. And I got married a year ago myself. This summer I went to Taize, France, came home and prepared to move to a new church as an associate pastor…but before that happened, I was hospitalized suddenly with acute pancreatitis and ended up on a ventilator for thirteen days. I spent a month in the hospital and two months at home recovering. After much healing, I am now at my church and continuing to get stronger. In preparation to preach for the first time in my church the Sunday after Christmas, I came to your Advent blog. And I saw your news. My heart aches for you so much. I am so sorry for your loss. It hits me hard because I almost left this world too, in my first year of marriage. As I looked at this picture on your blog, I realized something surprising that made me feel your pain even more: you and I were married in the very same wedding dress. My heart hurt for you, remembering the hopes we both had as we purchased those dresses. I am praying that God will hold you especially close and give you peace and comfort. I can tell you from my own experience on the vent this summer, in his time on the ventilator your husband did not feel any pain…he was held in the arms of God, one of the most peaceful places he can be. I don’t know if any of my words will help, but I want you to know that I am praying for you and will ask God to carry you when you need it, and to be a refuge for your aching heart. May you feel the prayers of so many and be comforted. Praying for you without amen…
    Amy Forsythe-Alexander

  89. debora Says:

    I too, have been reading your blog anonymously for a few years. I am so very sorry for your loss of your dear husband, and so glad that you have such wonderful memories of him. Indeed, his heart will beat in yours, his words will come to your mind, and his love will continue…for love never fails.

  90. Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern Says:

    I’m someone else who has not met you, but whose life has been touched by your art and words, and through you, by Gary as well. I hope it eases the pain somewhat to know that Gary’s heart beats, not just in you, but in strangers far away. Holding you in the light and love that never cease,


  91. Holly Simons Says:

    As I savor the empathy and glory of all these posts, dear Jan… it breaks upon me that our beloved Holy Spirit has wanted you to have a taste, a glimpse of His glorious purpose in your life, in Gary’s. Yours continues earthly as you journey forward alone, but not alone. His is now celestial, and yet, we know he is also beating within you, walking with you, in some mysterious way we only pray to comprehend one Day. In Gary’s dying, you have become privileged to “see” the tip of impact lives have upon others.
    I see you.

  92. Lynsay Says:

    Dear Jan,

    As ever you have found the most grace-filled, beautiful words to express your feelings for Gary. I bought his “Songmaker’s Christmas” last year and love listening to it. I also played the Christmas film you made to go with the heaven and earth track to my congregation at Midnight Mass last year. The two of you will continue to touch the lives of many people you have never met and will never hear from. Gary’s incarnation continues to bless us in his songs… until all things are made new.

    Much love and prayers of solace for you,


  93. Jan L. Hoffman Says:

    Dearest Jan,
    Your blessing gives words to my funeral preparation for a young cancer victim. When there are no words this morning, Bible, liturgy and Jan Richardson enrich!
    May this short day, long night, give you quiet and long rest, and may you awaken on the morrow to hear the Angels’ songs, Be not afraid, Jan!
    Loving you from afar.
    The other Jan

  94. Patty Says:

    I am very sorry for your loss. I, too, lost my husband 3 years ago and I understand your words so very well. I wish you peace and love. He lives on in you, in his music and in everyone he touched. blessings

  95. Vincent O'Grady Says:

    Jan, with my deepest sympathy on your great loss, May Gary be embraced with eternal love and may you be encircled with family and friends

  96. Margee Iddings Says:

    Strange as the carol’s words seem, I send you “tidings of comfort and joy.”
    How does one receive the gift of such powerful words? I image you, dear heart, as a deeply rooted tree, growing in a circle of sacred light. Your roots are intimately inter-twined with another tree’s roots, even though that tree has ben cut down. and the two trees sing, “comfort and joy.” May it be so!

  97. Charlie Robertson Says:

    The time I was able to spend with Gary was so special to me. He was just one of those people who was always able to get to the simple truth of any situation. His spirit is so strong that there will always be a place for him in my heart in the present tense….as for you. No two people were ever better matched so my advice is that you never let him go. I always thought that some day he and I would work on something together and failing that I will
    look at places where I am blocked from clarity and ask ‘what would the mysterious Mr Doles do?’ and proceed accordingly. He was so many things but the word that keeps coming back to me is irrisistable. My love goes out to you and I look forward to seeing you in the future

  98. Wietske Brunzema Says:

    Dearest Jen,
    With deep, deep sadness did I read the message of Gary’s passing. Only you can write about the impossible, the untouchable, the most difficult with such sweetness, clarity and razorsharp precision. My dear friend, you are in my heart, my prayers, my tears. May you know of my love for you and your family, may my love help you through this time of grief. Your wedding picture is so beautiful, such strong love…what remains is that : Love.

  99. Kendra Says:

    What a beautiful blessing for a soul clearly treasured. May God continue to enliven your path as you seek peace during this time of loss. I join the community holding you in prayer and giving thanks for Gary’s life and love shared, and for the sure promise of the resurrection.

  100. Chrstina Del Piero Says:

    Dear, dear Jan: My heart breaks with you as I read your powerful words of remembrance and celebration of so deep a love shared through partnership, song and prayer. I have been holding you and Gary in prayer and only now discovered the sad news. It was such a blessing to be with you in October at Genesis and to witness the beauty of which you write. Thank you for opening your heart to me and to all who are blessed by your courageous witness to the power of faith and love.

  101. Sally Purvis Says:

    Words fail me, though clearly not you. Remember to breathe deeply, dear one, and feel your pulse often. Sending so much love.

  102. Susie Bjork Says:

    Though I have never met either you or Gary in person, your artwork, poetry, and liturgy and Gary’s music have been such meaningful gifts to me and to the world. Thank you so much for shining your light even in this difficult time of loss. You and your family will continue to be in my prayers as you continue to walk this journey.

  103. Tanda Ainsworth Says:

    Dear Jan,
    My heart aches, and I send you my love and ongoing prayers. I continue my walk around our labyrinth for you and Gary. You have so blessed my life with your words, and Gary with his music. May your spirits continue to bless each other and the world.
    Deep peace to you,
    Tanda Ainsworth

  104. Lynne Lew Says:

    Dearest Jan, there are no words, but a sending to you and holding of you of light, love, hope, and prayers of peace and comfort. May the words you have written and the evocative art you have created over the past years return to you and bless you at this time in a rich, deep way; the way they have blessed me. I will be holding you in prayer.

  105. Kay Clowater Says:

    Dear Jan,

    Just read your email and learned of Gary’s death. I was so sorry to hear this news even though I didn’t know you personally, I’ve always appreciated your art and words. Thank you for sharing those beautiful words written for Gary’s service. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult this must be for you. Loving thoughts and prayers are being sent your way. May you find peace and comfort in the Holy One through the love of your family and friends.

  106. Dorothy Geiser Says:

    Reading your memory poem and all of the above messages regarding your loss touches me deeply. Your see I am going through the heart hurts of losing my beloved husband of 65+ years December 13; just three weeks ago. Every morning of late we have hugged and said to each other “well, He has given us another day!” His journey through the valley, following a fall, took just 4 days. Your testimony lightens the empty feeling knowing he now will always be in my heart and treasured memories. God Bless You, dear one.

  107. Beth Knight Says:

    Dear, Dear Jan,
    Each time I re-read this the poignant depth of
    these words brings tears to my eyes. Truly Gary’s
    story, song and spirit live on in precious ways and
    I am thankful for your generous heart and the way
    you share this season with us, with me. May the Light
    of Epiphany bless, comfort and keep you in its tender care.

  108. Beverly Shamana Says:

    Dear Jan, I’ve just read of your terrible loss. My heart goes out to you as I join the many who are holding you in the light of God’s grace. I remember the joy it was to have you and Gary lead the women Bishop’s retreat in Tampa. Even in your great loss the soul of your shared creativity blesses others and your deeply poetic words touch the heart of the universe.

  109. Jim Miller Says:


    So sorry to hear about Gary’s death. Saw the post of his post-surgery issues, then the press of thanksgiving and my wife Sue’s multiple health issues of past few weeks kept me out of the loop. It was a blessing to meet you and Gary when you came to Brookville in April. May God’s light and love support and guide you into the coming days. I will cherish our encounter and will listen again and again to Gary’s creative offerings on CD.

    Peace & Grace, Jim

  110. Pam Says:

    Dear Jan, my prayer and love are for you this day as I read your gracefilled blessing for Gary.


  111. Holly Tickle Says:

    Dear Jan,
    I have been so intrigued by you and Gary and the gifts you have shared through music and art and your creative ways of offering those to all of us in ministry. I am shocked and saddened by the news of Gary’s dying. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for your beautiful images and the words you spoke in honor of Gary. I can see how beautiful your relationship was and I will keep you in my prayers as you grieve. Peace be with you.

  112. Dawn Reichard Says:

    Dear Jan, Just wanted to share my love and prayers for you. I thank God for your sharing of soul-deep mourning while remaining strong in your conviction to keep the blessing of Gary’s life alive. I’m so grateful that I was there at the Audire retreat when the two of you presented. What a gift.
    Dawn Reichard

  113. Vicki Says:

    May the love of friends and family bring you comfort.
    May the love of God bring you peace.
    May both bless you as you bless so many others.

  114. Jan Rheinheimer Says:

    Dear Jan,

    Thoughts and prayers as you continue to celebrate Gary’s life in the midst of mourning his loss.

  115. Betsy Anderson Says:

    Deep sorrow and gratitude for you who have accompanied me and so many others with your beautiful words and images. I was thinking of you through the advent season as someone had let me know your husband was very ill but I didn’t make it to the computer to find out that he had in fact died. I am so sorry for your great loss. But so glad for the joy you found together. Another friend told me last night of his death and sent the beautiful blessing you created for this moment. What power and poignance. May you you carry strong light in this time of unfolding loss. Thank you for your ministry among so many of us. Blessed be.

  116. Dr Bill Wilson Says:

    Your life and art and poetry is the lectio that many need. Thank you in this time of your life and grief for who you are. I have kept you in my prayers since learning of your dear one’s death. May God continue to surround you with strength, holy presence, and comfort. from West Virginia.

  117. Laura Hudson Says:

    Jan, I’m reading this for the second time as I prepare to reflect on the whole Advent retreat with local folks today. This reflection and your blessing take my breath away, even as I notice anew my own pulse and how all those who have meant so much to my life–like Gary has, teaching at the Guild with you, sharing with me about his songwriting and inspiring me with his understanding of his calling–are now part of my pulse. I am called to honor them with the ways I live my life. Thank you so much.

  118. Angela Miller Says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I just lost my beloved Richard on January 4th and your words are so true and meaningful at this moment. Blessings to you. Angie

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Angela, I am so sorry for the death of your beloved Richard. Know I am sending many blessings to you and am so grateful for the gift of your words. Deep peace to you, and everything else you need in these days. Thank you again.

  119. Hazel Glover Says:


    I have been reading your blog for years and can attest to the powerful impact Gary made on your writings, your being, and your spirit. Peace and light to you.

  120. Jan Richardson Says:

    Beautiful friends, I can hardly begin to tell you how much your words have meant to me over the past weeks since Gary’s death, and how much they continue to mean as I move into this new year without him. In this strange, dark, sorrowful landscape, your prayers, your presence, your words, your thoughtfulness are all such gifts and treasures. Thank you for helping to light the way. I send you so many blessings, so much gratitude. Peace to you.

  121. Janice Altenburger Says:

    Dear Jan,

    I just read of you incredible loss of the love of your life. As you travel this road of grief and sorrow, may God give you comfort and strength and light for your path. Know that you are being held in prayer during this time.

  122. Joanna Gerber Pinkerton Says:

    Thank you Jan, for sharing the heartbeat. In this great cavern of sorrow, you are holding the light for us too…and helping us discover the light each of us holds that cannot be put out. Thank you for your poetry that unveils Truth and Hope… Much love, many prayers.

  123. Liz Pavlick Says:

    Thank you for putting into words what I have not been able to. You see I too, lost my beloved husband last October so I do understand your pain. Your reference to your husband’s heart beating in you is a beautiful thought. Your writing expresses so much of what I feel, but have not been able to write. ( I wrote throughout his 3 year illness, but since his death I have not been able to write.) There are reasons, but now is not the time to post my story. Suffice to say I appreciate your words they ring true for me too. Thank you for sharing.

  124. Monica Lowery Says:

    Thank you so much for your beautiful words of love and encouragement for all of us. My beloved husband died on December 31st, peacefully in his sleep, after battlling pneumonia and looking toward a heart valve replacement. We were so blessed in our life together and that day we were enjoying watching our dear granddaughter play with our new puppy MAGS – what a peaceful, loving time to be our last. Your words are so comforting and helpful to me at this tender time in my life. Blessing to you and to all who have suffered great loss.

  125. Marcie Says:

    Extending my sympathy to you. Thanks to you and Gary for sharing your lives and love with all of us.

  126. Rev. Howard Fleming Says:

    Garrison Doles performed a benefit concert at a church I served in Waxhaw, NC and led two worship services at my current church in Granite Falls, NC. Garrison brought a quality of excellence and a spirit of grace that made these song chapel experiences a true blessing for all in attendance. I cannot believe that Garrison is no longer available to bless the church through his gift of faith and song – but I imagine that he is currently booked solid and playing to a very rowdy and appreciative audience! Grace and peace to you Jan.

  127. Jeffrey Johnson Says:

    Dear Jan,

    I am deeply moved by your sharing and the poem you wrote in celebrating the life of your husband and the love that you shared together. Just a few weeks ago my beloved wife passed and the service was held last week. Although it didn’t still my grief it allowed me to temper it with the joy of having lived and loved so deeply this person, who as you say, continues within me. I would like to share my remarks with you and others in the spirit of reverence for all of those who experience the crossing over of our beloved ones. Thank you for sharing your heart. Jeff

    Maryanne Teresa Nobile’s Memorial Service, 2-11-2014
    Sharing by her husband, Jeffrey Vaughn Johnson

    Where is Maryanne?

    I am still shocked by the suddenness of Maryanne’s passing. Though I knew she might go at any time, she had a quality of courage and strength that made her seem almost invulnerable. During these past six years she fought so hard to recover and to be fully in life. She accomplished much, learning and teaching from her experience of suffering and joy.

    I am grieving now with a ferocity I have never felt. I wake up each morning and ask: “Where are you Maryanne? Why did you leave so soon — before I even had a chance to say good-bye.”

    Where are you, my beloved? I feel you so close to me, I feel you within me, and around me. I know that you have not vanished but have taken another form. But what is that? Where is that? I really need to know the answers to these questions.

    I believe that Maryanne is now free. She has been transformed into the energy of billions of atoms which are defusing all over the earth — carried by wind, the clouds, and the rain. I feel her energy is most concentrated right here in Dickeyville – in the trees, the forest and the river. Her light and energy is now inside us too. I see her in the birds outside our window.

    Maryanne’s life has great meaning for all of us. Her life is a wake up call –reminding us what is most precious. She asks us to become aware of the true miracles of life.

    When we breathe, realize the miracle of breathing.
    When we walk, realize the miracle of walking.
    When we speak, realize the miracle of speaking.
    When we move, realize the miracle of moving.

    Maryanne’s mind and spirit continues to be alive within us. Many people in the village and in our mindfulness community have shared with me how touched and inspired they have been by her courage, her smile, and her inner light. Over the course of her life, Maryanne’s loving energy was shared with all of us through her eyes, her smile, her hands, and her very being.

    Her great love is still present — for her beloved animals, for her mother and father, her sister and brothers, her nephews, and for her dear friends. Each of us was special to her. We can realize that she continues to exist within us by contemplating her smile and her laughter, her devilish sense of humor, her grace and physical beauty, her willingness to have adventures and throw herself whole-heartedly into new things.

    Maryanne was a powerful healer in my life. When we first met I was locked in a deep depression and would awaken from nightmares in a panic. With compassion, she would take my face in her two hands, look deeply into my eyes, and let her loving energy flow into me – calming me and bringing peace. I realize that being with her has changed me and the way I act, feel and think and what I value. Her presence in me has changed my actions towards others, how I care for myself and for those in my care.

    Maryanne was a very down to earth person – totally without pretense — who remained honest and true to her own experience. She cared little about material wealth and professional success. Hers was not a journey of the ego but of the spirit. She dwelled in the present moment and never lost her sense of the miraculous in everyday life – particularly in the natural world. She was a fighter. She never stopped fighting to get better. She never stopped fighting to reach out and communicate with others. She never stopped learning new things. She never stopped wanting to live. She never gave up on herself, on me, or on any of us. She never stopped loving us – and she never will.

    I wrote this poem for her this morning:

    Where are you, my beloved?

    Where are you my beloved?
    When I awoke this morning you were not there.

    I see your signs everywhere
    — in our home, in the village, in the woods.
    But where are YOU now?

    I saw your body lying there
    –still warm to my touch
    –but without breath.

    I held the wooden box holding your ashes.
    But that was not you.

    Where are you, dear Maryanne?
    Why did you leave so soon
    –without saying goodbye?

    Is that you –
    –the red cardinal flying by?

    Is that you, Sheba, your new cat
    –looking deeply at me with her green eyes?

    Is that you, in the strong arms of our friends,
    –holding and comforting me?

    Is that you in the tears flowing
    -down the cheeks of our beloved teacher?

    Is that you in the joy I feel
    -for loving you?

    Is that you in my tears and laughter
    -in recalling you?

    Is that you in that strong voice
    -inside of me
    supporting and guiding me
    -in my grieving you?

    Was that you who said yesterday:
    “What about the flowers?
    Of course I want flowers!
    And purple ones too!”

    Here you are.
    I see you now.

    In the eyes of Sahji.
    In the hearts of those who love you.
    In your voice that guides me.
    In your life inside me,
    -and all around me.

    Good bye dearest Maryanne.
    Hello my beloved.

  128. Susan van Duinen Says:

    Dear Jan,

    My sweetheart unexpectedly passed away. Your words so describe what I cannot find words for. The deep heartache, and rawness like a wound on the inside that ever stings – amazing how a human being can go on in the midst of it all. The blessing of our relationship confirms what many have said over the years that our marriage was made in heaven. We served in ministry together. This was like a dance in which we needed no words. We new the steps. We raised a family and the legacy continues on. It is true the deeper the love the deeper the grief. But ah yes the reunion! I pray for you Jan as you journey on the pathway of grief with other pilgrims.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Susan, I am so sorry about the death of your sweetheart and partner in ministry. “A dance in which we needed no words” – yes – I hear you. I pray for many blessings of healing and comfort for you and your family. Thank you for your prayers and the gift of your words. Deep peace to you.

  129. Linda Says:

    My husband and partner in ministry died eight years ago; my own heart remembers and echoes your words and experiences. I recall the pain at seeing holiday commercials for jewelry, perfume–my own beloved was suddenly gone. It was easily two years before I moved beyond cussing or crying everyday (pretty much the same as when we worked together!).
    I read a poem a day, and read the Ash Wednesday/Lenten poem yesterday. And thought of his ashes, there in my living room.
    And smiled at many memories.

  130. julienne smout Says:

    Lovely I lost my mother last year and your words speak to me about my loss as well thankyou

  131. Lorraine Dietel Says:

    I too lost the live of my life during Advent. Your poems speak to my heart. They are so true. May you find peace one of these days.

    • Susan van Duinen Says:

      Dear Lorraine a new journey for you with many of us on the road. I have found I miss , my beloved Dirk more as time goes on. May you find comfort in the blessing/poem/prayers Jan has penned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *