I realized this evening, after seeing a note from my older brother, that this is indeed September 19. “Yes,” you say, “you can read the calendar. And your smartphone… and this matters because…?”
Nineteen years ago today marked a loss from which I’ve still not fully snapped back. But as I contemplate this evening, I think that’s okay. I think Rich would have liked knowing that his steps ruffled things up a bit.
I’ve written of Rich Mullins’ impact on my life several other years also, and I’ll do it here again. His own life was filled with “invisible issues,” some of which he shared in ways only he could, and many of which he kept hidden.
One song of his, “Elijah,” was particularly poignant, with poetic imagery that touched my heart as far back as my high school years. Take a look at my 2012 reflections on Rich’s special forward to my high school photographic essay. (Step back in time for a look at school projects completed with paper, pen, crayola markers, scissors, and scads of rubber cement. Color printers? Not in 1988.)
I continue to hear Rich’s music in my head at various times, but I find it happening most when T.R. and I are reading scripture together. So much of the imagery, the stories can be tied to scripture. As we’re trodding through Revelation, with its fantastical and frightening imagery (though I know a triumphant end is coming before the book is complete), I find myself offering the same prayer as Rich in his song, Be with You: “…when the sky is crossed with the tears of a thousand falling stars as they crash into the sea, can I be with You? Can I be with You?”.
Yes, it’s been nineteen years. And I thank Rich and the legacy he has left for continued little lessons I learn, from reflecting on teenage times to hearing the scriptures continue to sing today. May his songs live on.
songs still speaking beyond the years, beyond the scars
Eighteen years ago, life changed in more ways than I would have predicted. On July 30, I received a diagnosis for multiple sclerosis. On August 14, my heart was lightened as I attended an absolutely wonderful concert. Rich Mullins had been my very favorite musical artist for a while already – this was likely my fifteenth of his concerts. In fact, I wrote a review for an email list, as I was very touched by Rich’s words and music. But after August came September, and I received a phone call the evening of September 19 that caused my heart to drop.
My younger brother called to share news he had just heard on the radio: Rich Mullins had been in a car accident… and he had died almost immediately. His song “Elijah,” and my high school photo essay, flashed through my mind. As I leaned against a large oak tree in our back yard, a few silent tears trickled down as I stared into the clear, starry sky.
But this was eighteen years ago. Last year, a new piece of Rich’s legacy was shared in the form of an independent film, Ragamuffin. Like any story, Rich’s true tale was multifaceted, and the movie does share some of Rich’s scars that were not outwardly evident on this multi-talented musician, poet, speaker, writer. The lyrics of “Hold me, Jesus” ring even truer as we get a glimpse of Rich’s inner struggles.
and I wake up in the night and feel the dark
it’s so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart
so hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
won’t You be my Prince of Peace
Each of us does have “invisible issues” of some kind, and I’m thankful to Rich for being willing share some of his struggles, to admit of the “blisters on his heart.” And to remind us where true peace comes from.