Last week, on our way home from Wisconsin, we stopped into the cemetery in the tiny town of Hollansburg, Ohio so that I could pay my respects at the grave of musician Rich Mullins. Hollansburg is just a couple of miles over the western border with Indiana, which is the area where he grew up.
Take a look at this picture:
I took this perspective of his family grave plot to try to give the feeling of how we were in the middle of flat corn country. Just to the other side of the cemetery road there were kids playing in their back yard swimming pool. I walked the whole four or five block length of town to capture another picture that, while not typical of what the town looked like, felt typical of the sort of beauty... yes, beauty... of the area.
I couldn't help but think of one of Rich's songs when I was here that he wrote about his parents. It goes "Never picture perfect/just a plain man and his wife/who somehow knew the value of hard work, good love and real life." I could feel here what he expresses in this song, that through his very human and imperfect family, his faith and love grew wings.
While listening to his music, in my head while I was there and on recordings since returning home, I have been struck by how deeply Rich experienced a sort of natural sense of the sacramental, of the incarnational. He looked at nature and knew it was evidence of God's powerful love for his life. He observed human interaction and saw how it both witnessed to the majesty of God and the travesty of sin. He got it, intuitively, it seems. It is no wonder that he was attracted to the sacramental life of the Church, even while it was hard for him to embrace the institutionalism.
Sometimes words just fail me. His music just makes my heart ache and throb with the beauty of God manifested in what He has created. To capture that in beautiful melodies and poetic lyrics and that beautiful hammered dulcimer is such a gift to us all.
Requiescat in Pace, Rich.