I’ve been quiet for a couple of weeks, because when my emotions are highest, my voice is the softest. As most of you know, a few weeks ago, right before Christmas, our dear friends Dusty and Pat Richards were in an automobile accident. The accident was dreadful, leaving both of them in the intensive care unit of a local hospital.

They were listed as stable but critical, and the prognosis was hopeful but guarded. There have been small gains, and small losses. Our emotions have been riding a constant rollercoaster. We have tried to carry on business as usual at Oghma, but I’m sure you all understand that is almost impossible when family members are going through trials. And Dusty and Pat have been family since the beginning of Oghma.

We worried about their conditions, waited for any and all updates, wondered what the updates meant for their futures, wondered if we were hoping for too much, or too little. We agonized as Pat went through surgery for her back, her arm, her wrist. We waited for news of Dusty regaining consciousness, regaining memories, we wonder if he will ever again be the Dusty we know and love. We agonized over infections, celebrated the removal of ventilators, celebrated as Pat began rehabilitation and we were told she might regain some movement in her legs after all, and not be completely paralyzed.

Last week, unexpectedly, we received the news that Pat had passed from this world. It was her birthday that day. I choose to view this as a positive sign. Everyone who ever met Pat Richards can attest to her strong spiritual nature. What better way to begin a new phase of her spiritual journey than to celebrate her heavenly birthday on the same day as her earthly birthday?

Today we celebrated the life of Pat Richards at her funeral. The family provided photographs of beautiful memories to help us celebrate with them. Wedding pictures, family vacations, community events, glimpses into a life well-lived. Friends and family sent beautiful flower arrangements to remind us that life is indeed beautiful, yet fleeting, and should be celebrated.

Yes, we are devastated to lose her. But our tears are for ourselves, for all of the things we won’t say, the times we won’t see her, the events we won’t enjoy along with her. And we cry for Dusty, who lost his partner of 56 years, her daughters who lost their mother, her grandchildren, her extended family, her friends, and her community. Pat Richards lived a beautiful life, and her spirit was strong, her faith stronger still. There was no need to cry for Pat, because as long as even one person remembers her, she is never truly gone. And knowing she touched so many lives, and so many generations, she will live on for many years here on Earth, as well as in Heaven.