I was a young adult preparing to visit Ireland when my great aunt Eileen shared this picture with me. Aunt Eileen had inherited the photo of her grandmother, Mary Tuohy Griffin, from Scarriff, County Clare, Ireland.
Eileen had visited her grandmother Griffin in 1915 with her family (including her older brothers Tommy and Jack). The family’s strange pilgrimage took them from South Africa to England and Ireland and then, eventually, to Oklahoma in the United States. (Their unintended immigration is too long a story for this post. I tell Grandpa’s story in my book.)
I grew up hearing the stories from my Grandpa Tom about those days in Ireland. About how he and his twin brother rode in the baskets the donkeys carried as they walked back and forth to the peat bogs. How they were each given a kid goat which they fed by letting them suckle any momma goat they could find. How they threw rocks down people’s chimneys and basically got into trouble like ten-year-old boys will do.
When I went to Ireland those years ago (before digital photography!), I traveled to County Clare to the little town of Scarriff. I asked at the post office for people who might have known of the Griffins and their farm north of town. I discovered a cousin of my grandpa’s, the chemist in town, who drove me out to the property. I stood and rested my eyes on the land, the sky, the fields, and I knew I was home.
Today I leave for a pilgrimage to this land of beauty, of music and poets and prayers. I travel with a group of other pilgrims from The Upper Room’s Academy for Spiritual Formation. I pray that we may be fully present, eyes and ears and hearts wide open to the blessings of each moment. That we step forward in trust that we will find the paths where the Spirit leads us. Traveling mercies for all who journey this day.
Margaret Elizabeth Wilson Richardson
Mom, today is the day you were born.
I celebrate you.
Epiphany child, you were
Born in the middle of the depression,
In the middle of nowhere,
In the dusty, barren red dust
Of southwest Oklahoma.
You were loved and beloved
By family, then and now.
Thank you for giving me life,
For the gifts of music, laughter, love,
For creativity, nurture, compassion.
And though you left this earth too early,
Thank you for still walking with me through my days.
You were, are, and always will be my mom.
I love you.
Today is the 30th anniversary of my mom’s death. It’s so strange to have her frozen in time at age 48. I wonder what wisdom she would have to share with me today?
Today, I want to share a tribute that my dad wrote in the Grace United Methodist Church newspaper (Tulsa, OK) soon after she died.
As I shared with the worshipping community last Sunday morning, one of the expressions of love and sympathy which came to me and the family was in the form of a round crystal pendant which was so faceted that, when it turns in the sunlight, sends out a shower of rainbow-colored circles of light on the walls and ceiling of the room. It was accompanied with this sentiment: “To be hung in the sun to make living rainbows to remember a life beautifully lived.”
“Living rainbows” and “a life beautifully lived”; to me, that expressed Marty’s life. I am not one who believes that there is only one person in life with whom one could be happy in marriage or that marriages are made in heaven, but I will always believe that when we met for the first time, God may have said, “Hey, that would make a very good match!” And so a lonely preacher boy, who was shy, found a girl who made him feel very much at ease in her presence and God gave him the courage to pursue the relationship.
I was attracted by her unassuming ways, her intelligence and keen wit. She had a positive, sunny personality, a ready smile for everyone, and a way of making people feel at home in her presence. She never put on airs and never tried to be anything other than who she was. She was charitable toward all and accepted life as it came to her. She never complained about life or about her illness, accepting it with great courage and faith. . . .
As with any two persons whose lives have been intimately linked together in marriage, a part of Marty will always be a part of my life. I thank God for her life and for the many gifts she shared with me and with others. As Elvira Glossybrook [Marty’s alter-ego] might say, “I’ll declare, that Marty is sure fun to be with.” And so she was.