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Joy and Sorrow

November 15, 2011

This past Sunday, family and friends of Rick gathered in Viroqua at the Public Market where the Optimo Restaurant hosted a benefit to help defray some of the costs of Rick’s illness.  The number of people who attended and amount of pictures sold was overwhelming and a great tribute to Rick from a community he genuinely loved.  Those who attended enjoyed great food and wonderful entertainment.

I want to sincerely thank all those who helped with this successful fundraiser both in their participation and in their attendance.  My brothers and sisters and I were profoundly touched by all the love, warmth and support shown by everyone there.

Those who know me, know that I am the family cynic and am something of a curmudgeon. But over the past number of years, I’ve watched Rick and Peg become part of a wonderful community near Gays Mills called Dancing Waters; the kind of community many of us have longed for in our lives, but few are fortunate enough to ever find.

And just down valley beyond Dancing Waters, the quaint little town of Viroqua and its environs also became a home to both Rick and Peg.

I now understand why.

There is something special, something ethereal, something perhaps in the water…or the air…that seems to attract the kind of people that Rick always sought in his life. Until he moved to Dancing Waters and the Viroqua area, he felt alien to a society that seemed to exist more for exploitation than for co-existing with the beauty and spirit of the natural world.

But living among the good folks who gravitated to Southwestern Wisconsin’s Driftless Area gave Rick hope again that maybe this old world with its billions of people wasn’t destined to be destroyed by humanity’s seemingly inherent greed and neglect.  I know that the last 15 years of Rick’s life have been the happiest he has known.

Anyone who has been reading this blog has marveled at Rick’s easy acceptance of his death; no one more so than me, who always intended to follow Dylan Thomas oft-quoted lines:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

But I believe that Rick saw so much more than I do both in this life–and beyond. Perhaps the succor he found in the gentle hills of Sleepy Hollow and the joy he discovered with his wife and friends was the perfect denouement of a complex life that he considered mostly a gift, as he came very close to dying–and was in fact mostly given up for dead because of an almost always fatal illness–when he was just a young child.

I know Rick would want to thank you all for all the love you have shown to him–but most importantly to Peg, who has born the weight of Rick’s dying with a love and devotion that borders on the saintly. I don’t know if she has had a good night’s sleep for months and I know she doesn’t want me to mention her extraordinary devotion to Rick in this blog.

Nevertheless, I am mentioning you, Peg.  I feel I must.

The word soulmate has been used and abused to the point where it has lost much of its meaning, but as I’ve seen many, many relationships in my time, I don’t know one that defines the word better than the deep and spiritual love affair between Rick and Peg LaMartina during their all-too-short life together.  Peg, you shine brighter than most stars because of your selfless dedication to my brother in his hours of need.  You are greatly, greatly loved by your LaMartina family.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Thanks to all who have contributed such wonderful comments during these months as well as for your participation at the benefit.   We are indeed humbled by your love and compassion.


6 Comments leave one →
  1. sage permalink
    November 16, 2011 7:33 pm

    Thank you for sharing this with those of us who are ‘out there’, Mike. I am so sad for Peg and for you and all your sibs, though I know it is Peg who will experience the biggest void, and my heart breaks for her. I am grateful to have known Rick……… what a very special human being. I did not know the near death story, but it does help to explain Rick’s easy acceptance of death, doesn’t it. He is walking with angels- or more likely- flying with them!

    The world will miss his shining light here on this tired planet, but he gave much light and love to many, so we will all just have to carry it on in our own ways.

    With love and light and peace and much compassion,

  2. Elaine permalink
    November 16, 2011 5:12 pm

    What a honor and tribute your words are, Mike, not only to your dear brother, Rick, but to Peg as well. Like you I have witnessed her devotion, her sadness, desperation, her incredilbe courage as she has lived this journey with Rick in Love * Joy * Peace * Patience * More.
    Peg is an extraordinary, very beautiful gift. An inspiration. A Friend. I will always be here for her.

    My heart is with Peg * Rick *All in the Family.


  3. Susan permalink
    November 16, 2011 9:28 am

    For Rick, and all of us…..

    People Like Us

    There are more like us. All over the world
    There are confused people, who can’t remember
    The name of their dog when they wake up, and
    Who love God but can’t remember where

    He was when they went to sleep. It’s
    All right. The world cleanses itself this way.
    A wrong number occurs to you in the middle
    Of the night, you dial it, it rings just in time

    To save the house. And the second-story man
    Gets the wrong address, where the insomniac lives,
    And he’s lonely, and they talk, and the thief
    Goes back to college. Even in graduate school,

    You can wander into the wrong classroom,
    And hear great poems lovingly spoken
    By the wrong professor. And you find your soul,
    And greatness has a defender, and even in death
    you’re safe.

    Robert Bly

  4. November 15, 2011 6:26 pm

    Wow!Mike, I look forward to meeting you in the flesh, as they say. Your love for Rick and your love for the truth both shine forth….why don’t you move to Viroqua?(( I am only slightly kidding….) Your brother has been a dear friend of mine and I join all of you in celebrating his life, his courage and most of all, his mentoring in conscious dying. What a gift to all of us who will pass through the portal. Rick LaMartina did what he came to do; reveal the truth of Love in his living. May we all do the same.


  5. Megan Schliesman permalink
    November 15, 2011 6:17 pm

    I, too, was amazed and inspired by the Viroqua community and the community of people who surround and love Rick and Peg. Being there on Sunday was an amazing experience for many reasons, not the least of which was the spirit that filled the room and the air.

    And thank you for continuing these updates, Mike. Your words are lovely and lyrical and help us feel connected.


  6. Rebecca Wainscott permalink
    November 15, 2011 5:35 pm

    Dear Mike,
    Thanks so much for taking over the blog, talking about the fundraiser, and honoring Peg so deeply. And also for sharing this oh so small detail about Rick’s life-threatening illness as a child. I’d say chances are pretty good it has quite a bit to do with his deeply spiritual nature, his lack of patience with the world at large, and that disarming acceptance of his cancer diagnosis. He’s walked with angels before, he was ready to do it again.

    I knew that people would come out for the fundraiser, given the quality of Rick as a man and the quality of art he’s created, and having seen this community rally time and time again in similar situations. I wasn’t prepared for the number of people, the amount of art sold (something like 150 pieces, in 4 hrs!) and the out-pouring of heart support in the form of checks and cash. For those who haven’t heard we took in just over $25,000. Just Amazing.

    This is part of the cushion Peg needs to fall into when the time comes for her to be able to do that. The other part will be made up of all our hands and arms and legs and hearts; our good food delivered to her door; and our acceptance of her need to fall by witnessing her grief with respect and trust in her deeper relationship with the Great Mother and the Great Father.

    I am so honored to be part of that soul-family of Rick’s and have played such a fulfilling part in creating that cushion for her.

    All Love, All Blessings, All Thanks,
    and All Prayers surrounding 304 Western Ave. this week,

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