The race continues: in memory of Martin Richard

April is upon us; it will be one year since the bombs exploded at the finish line to the Boston Marathon. My heart still breaks. We say, "my heart is breaking for those people," all the time, but we don't mean it. We feel sympathy and imagine how awful those affected must feel, and then we move on. The next tragedy lights up CNN's ticker and our watercooler chatter.

Once you have experienced true heartbreak due to the end of a relationship or the loss of a loved one, you know what that entails.  You carry the ache with you, and maybe it will subside incrementally with the passing of a season, but it never truly leaves you. That ache, at once pronounced and eventually more dull, is always there. Its imprint is permanent so that it changes you.

The bombings in Boston on April 15, 2013 changed me, and I know I am not alone in this.

Many of us can mention a word and it flips a switch in our consciousness, such that when my friend Litch finds himself complaining, his wife Shelley will simply say, "Haiti," and Litch's purview on what constitutes a real problem shifts. He remembers the abject poverty he and Shelly observed on their trips to Haiti. He knows the flat tire on his Prius is a privilege, not a problem.

For me, I've not had many of these consciousness changers. I was born into privilege, I have known a life of comfort, I have experienced season after season of relative ease.

But for the last year, the mere mention of the name "Richard" has sent me reeling. I see their late son Martin Richard with the deep pools of brown eyes reminding us with his magic marker scrawled message to pursue Peace. To stop hurting people. I think of his mom, Denise Richard, my first neighborhood mama friend in Dorchester. I think of their family and their pain and their loss and then I think of their triumph just in putting one foot in front of the other, or, in the case of their daughter Janie Richard, putting one prosthetic leg in front of her God-given Irish step-dancing leg. That's all I need to reframe this moment in time. I hug my children more tightly, I give thanks for the blessing of scrubbing pee-soaked bathroom floors for these people; I give pause because--the Richards.


This is not to say that I give thanks in any way for the unimaginable pain of the Richards (or anyone with sense memories of that day). Their tragedy is not for my utility.  I am thankful, simply, that our stories continue.

If one motif has crystallized for me in these last twelve months, it is this: that the wisdom of the Marathon bombings is about the heart of children never leaving their parents, and the heart of parents never truly leaving their children.

  • Anzor Tsarnaev left his children in the United States in 2011; he was ill with cancer and vowed not to die in America. He was not able to bury his eldest son; he may never see his youngest son again.
  • Denise and Bill Richard, both injured, had to leave Martin at the scene of the crime. They had to leave their slain son, an innocent lamb, where police stood protecting him until all evidence had been gathered. He was covered with the sheet from a nearby restaurant. Under a pure sheet of white, Martin laid. 
  • An all-loving father in Heaven sent his only son to a broken planet and allowed him to die for crimes he never committed.

But none of these stories ends there. Tsarnaev will mourn his sons and his family's dissolution. The Richards will mourn Martin and they will heal and they will fight the flames of hatred with peace through the MR8 Foundation. They bring beauty from ashes and I am moved to tears at the very thought of the name Richard.

And my savior rose on the third day, a day that is marked this year one day before the Marathoners will lunge and launch into 26.2 miles of self-inflicted agony to test their bodies' endurance  to reach the finish line.

Those who cheer on the sidelines, those who assist the injured, those who protect and serve and report and promote peace--they are all a part of this story that continues as we all run this hard race until glory beckons us all home.


To contribute to the MR8 Foundation, you can make a tax-deductible contribution here.