ALS Victim Celebrated for Love of His Family, Natural World

November 16, 2023
The life of Rich Razumny was celebrated this past Sunday at the First Parish on the Common. Courtesy Image.

“Psithurism” is an obscure word for a common experience. It means “the sound of rustling leaves.”

Rich Razumny believed that after death, “his energy would return to the universe, specifically in the sound of the wind in the trees – Psithurism,” the Rev. Annie Gonzalez, minister of faith development, told a memorial program Sunday at his church, the First Parish on the Common. “We can imagine that Rich is here, present with us.”

Razumny died on Nov. 5, five years after moving to Bedford and 18 days before his 33rd birthday. During the winter of 2019, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the neurodegenerative illness also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

In a 2020 interview with the couple, his wife Leah said symptoms of the disease began to show in September 2017. 

“He had developed a limp that was continuing to worsen, even with physical therapy,” she related. In early 2018, he found that his left hand was too weak to unclip his son’s highchair.

Razumny said, “You can drive yourself crazy, you can very easily get yourself worked up if you start thinking about the what-ifs. So, I try to be present, in the moment.”

“It’s easy to get angry at the universe. That doesn’t help anyone or anything,” friend Jim McGrath told the service, which was labeled a celebration of Razumny’s life. “Instead, we must choose to remember the adventure. You were one in a million and so passionate about so many different things. There’s no one who can replace you. Everyone is coming together to fill the void you left behind.”

Razumny’s love for his family – his wife Leah Devereaux and their children Arthur and Maeve – and the natural world were prominent in the tributes.

“Rich supported Leah in everything she decided to add to her plate,” said her sister Lauren. “He used the short time he was given to flood Arthur and Maeve with the same unwavering care and support and love. All of us who love Rich will continue to nurture them with that.”

“He was all in on his family,” Gonzalez said, noting that Razumny bequeathed his guitars to his children. An Eagle Scout, Razumny was gratified by Arthur’s new involvement with Scouting. “It’s true that young men should be living. It’s true that it’s unfair,” Gonzalez said. “And so, I invite you all to keep doing what you are doing, keep surrounding Leah and Arthur and Maeve with so much love. And when you are out walking or cycling in the woods, listen for the sound of the Psithurism and feel his presence with you and carry it forward.”

 At Sunday’s celebration, McGrath recalled childhood paintball, bike rides, and board games as adults. “Rich’s sense of humor and laughter stay with me.”

(L-R) Rich Razumny with his children, Arthur and Maeve, and wife Leah Devereaux. Rich was diagnosed with ALS in Feb. 2019, and passed away Nov. 5, 2023. Photo from The Ruzumny’s ALS Journey GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/supporting-the-razumnys-als-journey

“When a container gets broken, it does not destroy the contents. It sets them free,” Lauren Devereaux said. The loss is not just of a friend, she said, but also “the loss of a chef, a musician, an artist, a camper, a Scout, a storyteller, a father, a son, a brother, and a husband.”

“I heard that his hobby was hobbies,” Gonzalez smiled, noting the Lego creations on display in the church in his memory.

Musical and poetry selections interspersed through the 40-minute program reflected “the idea that those who have died are with us,” as Gonzalez phrased it.

For example, “Immortality,” a 1934 poem by Clare Harner: “Do not stand by my grave, and weep. I am not there; I do not sleep. I am the thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints in snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain, I am the gentle, autumn rain.”

Also, “In Blackwater Woods,” written in 1983 by Mary Oliver: “To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones, knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go.”

Natan Wythe of the church music staff also played “Breaths” by Sweet Honey on the Rock, “The Rainbow Connection,” and “The General,” which Gonzalez said is “the song he was listening to during his final minutes.” The lyrics recount a general who in a dream realizes the futility of the war he is fighting.

Gonzalez told the gathering it is important “to celebrate a life in all of its fullness and to grieve together. All of the feelings you bring with you to this space are welcome here. Sadness and tears. Anger because of how unfair it is to lose someone so young and to an awful disease. Joy and happy memories that come from love.”

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