In Stillness You Will Find…


Death of a loved one turns the world upside down. Time gets distorted; it’s hard to remember what day it is, how anyone can be going to work as usual, or how to get from now to tomorrow. That’s how it’s been since my brother, Richard, died so tragically on June 13th. This morning, just over two weeks later, I felt a small shift.

It was before 6:30 when I went to my outdoor soaking tub. Dew had left drops of water on the leaves, and the gravel showed dark, wet patches.

I eased my way into the tub and took a deep breath. Not a leaf was stirring, not even a fern. Stillness is good company for a mourning heart. The only movement was steam from the hot water.

I sunk into the warmth.  My breath parted a trail through the rising vapor. It reminded me of the trails my brother Richard had carved through the forests on our family islands. He loved building trails. His passion for this started with a door we constructed together on Buckle Island when we were 13 and 16. For me, that door in the woods symbolizes the central gift of Richard’s life. I devoted a whole chapter to this experience with him in my book.

What I appreciate most about the door was its surprise. No sign said, “door this way,” or “door trail.” It stood for over 30 years, framed between two trees in a forest so dense you couldn’t walk around it. By stepping through in the dark you were invited to find the light beyond. Richard created many symbolic doors in the woods of his passions, for others to walk through. The most recent example was his work to support new medical treatments for victims of PTSD.

I yearn for my brother, more deeply than the darkest forest. Yet somehow, in the stillness of morning, I know he’s there, just beyond the door.


May you find light in whatever darkness you still have to walk through.
Be in your own stillness.

What arises in you?   

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18 Responses to In Stillness You Will Find…

  1. Anne Brengle says:

    Eileen, I remember that door so well. George and I have been thinking of you so much over the past few weeks. We send our fondest love. Anne Brengle

  2. will parish says:

    Loving and accessible to all, for all have mourned. This touched me and I thank you, Eileen. Love,

  3. Diana Lindquist says:

    Lovely, Eileen. I constantly remember Richard filming all us kids in Magical Mystery Tour on Buckle. This door had a starring g role. Thanks for the sweet memory. Bless you.

  4. Stephanie Koenig says:

    What arises — sorrow, for your loss, and for the loss to the world of such a lovely and generous being; appreciation for your last sentences (“May you find light in whatever darkness you still have to walk through. Be in your own stillness”); tenderness for all the losses, everywhere; yearning that all beings might be lifted, comforted, held, by what they find in stillness and quiet.

  5. Jean Hoins says:

    Eileen, your post is profoundly moving and it made me think for some time about the dark times we must endure. The image of the door in the woods will stay in my thoughts forever.

    I was on my porch watching the fireflies light up the woods and meadows last night. It is a sight of summer that always brings me joy . I remember standing with my grandfather out in the hay field at Clifford’s one summer just the year before he died. He brought me out there to see the fireflies. It was so dark that I couldn’t see where the earth ended and the sky began. Thousands of tiny lights sparkled in the darkness all around us and there was not a puff of a breeze.It was as though we were floating in the infinite universe and it was full of magic. We were silent for a long time, then my grandfather said, “Each tiny insect carries the light of a star.” It was one of the last times we ever walked outside together. That night those tiny insects had the power to make the deepest darkness beautiful. Whenever I see fireflies I think of him and the light of the fireflies and stars that he shared with me.

    There is always light, it fills us and it surrounds us, it is part of our being. Light is in the center of every flower, the smile of every child, the song of every bird, the brightness of the clear blue sky, the whisper of grasses moved by the wind, the gentle softness of moss on an old rock and in every sparkling drop of water. I know that the light will find you and help you in this time, because you will let it. In this time of darkness I wish you thousands of fireflies, filled with the light of the stars.

  6. Barb B says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I send my deepest sympathy.

  7. jsholmes says:

    A lovely post – thank you.

  8. Nancy Lindquist Mize says:

    I think I last saw Richard in Tarrytown in 2010, and nothing in his spirit was any less enthusiastic than it had been when he was a teenager. I love to think of him as just on the other side of the door. Love to you all.

  9. Tonja Ali says:

    Dear Eileen,
    Those are the most beautiful and heartfelt words yet. Death of loved ones is so hard to bear – no matter how enlightened we are. And sometimes I think we live in a society where people urge you to get on with life as usual so quickly, but the truth is life as we knew it has changed. And it’s okay to acknowledge that. This past year I lost three loved ones at death’s door. My favorite aunt who had brain surgery at age nine and doctors predicted she wouldn’t see age 16. My aunt, Juanita Carson, was 59 when she died. It was the only funeral I didn’t cry at – there was so much rejoicing at her strength that there was no room for tears.

    The other deaths were those of my two unborn children. I suffered two miscarriages within six months apart. The first time I tried to be this enlightened being – understanding that there is no real death. I moved quickly back to my work and it wasn’t until months later, during a massage therapy session, that I felt the spirit of my unborn child. Tears came rushing forth inside the session. I hadn’t properly said goodbye. The second pregnancy came six months later and my husband and I were so happy to have another chance. But the devastation of hearing the rhythm of a new life in a tiny heartbeat one week – then going back just a week later to find stillness was almost unbearable.

    We were heartbroken. The irony is that I was in two motion films during my second pregnancy – one of which debuts within a few weeks. Somehow I have mixed feelings about seeing myself in the movie, it saddens me and comforts me. It was the one amazing moment, my unborn child and I created together that’s documented. I think there is where we find the life we so long to touch or hold – in the memories we created together. Like the door and the many things you and Richard created together.

    With Deepest Empathy,
    Tonja Ali

  10. Louise Gilbert says:

    Dearest Eileen, I am deeply touched by your writing today and feel a profound empathy with you. I am welling up as I write. When I experience loss, I go to the sea or the Redwoods
    and walk and breathe and find beautiful balance and gratitude in nature. May you find strength, acceptance, and gratitude in the days ahead. With Love, Louise

  11. Paul Binder says:

    Very moving and beautiful. I love your posts, Eileen.

    sympathy and gratitude


  12. Joanne DePuy says:

    Eileen dear…my heart aches for you and your loss. If you have not read Joan Didion’s “A Year of Magical Thinking” I would like to send you a copy. It was great comfort for me when my husband, Newell, died suddenly seven years ago. Your brother’s birthday was the same as mine, July 24. I will hold a special birthday wish for him on that day and also send warm hugs and thoughts across the continent to you at this most difficult time.

    • Dear Joanne, Thanks for your kind thoughts. Let me clarify that this was my brother, RICHARD, not David. David’s birthday is on July 24th. Richard’s was on January 20th. He turned 65 this year. Thanks again though for thinking of me. The process of finding a relation with those gone before us is such a mystery, and an ever-evolving connection.

  13. Phyll says:

    Beautiful thoughts for a beautiful brother. Your words are branches of Humanity. We are all connected in the forest of life—and death. Our leaves may vary, but our foliage sways within gentle breezes, trunks illuminated under a canopy of stars. My tree knows your tree. Our trees weep like Willows but stand strong like Oaks. May the tree of life for Richard live on forever in your heart–your rings entwined like circles connecting souls.

  14. Elaine Naddaff says:

    Eileen, Thank you for sharing so many of the opened doors of your childhood. It is fitting that your work in early childhood education weaves, so distinctly, into the fabrics of your life. I know that you are in mourning and that Richard will live on in your memory and for those who have loved him and worked with him throughout the years. I wish you peace of mind.

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