Richard Leach is a lucky man. I had to meet him.
He has figured out how to add rhyme and reason to his life.
The retired insurance salesman writes poems. About everything, especially people that he cares about. It’s how he savors life.
I discovered this in late July when I pulled a package from my mailbox. He sent me a small booklet, it’s 200-plus pages snugged into a spiral binder. On the slick glossy cover was artwork of a shining red heart being touched by two hands, one dark and the other white.
Below the heart was the title: “Touched By A Few.”
On the inside cover, over his signature, he wrote: “To Lonny ... Enjoy.” The table of contents listed 58 poem titles.
“I wrote these through a window in my mind – as certain people touched my life,” he explained in his preface.
“To have the feelings of others – happy or sad – and to comprehend through those feelings and share the grief along with the happiness is my intent.”
Those who have touched his life include family and friends but also events and stages of life.
“Touched by death [itself]. Touched by the fear of coping with the pains of growing old. Touched by the continuous aura that encircles a rising – which makes it eternal. Touched by the wonders of this world itself. ... Somehow [IT’S] [ME] touched by a few.”
He signs all his work [IT’S] [ME]. His way of saying he’s just a guy who writes poems.
His gift to me was triggered by a recent column I wrote about the importance of writing and sharing life stories. I could have sent him a thank-you letter, but I wanted to thank him in person. What he sent me was very personal. And ... he’s a writer.
Rich and his wife Peggy welcomed me into their home in Morris. I soon learned he has a never-ending need to explain life through rhyme. Peggy said it took some getting used to, but she gets it. Besides ... he’s unstoppable.
“Some people call me the poet laureate of Morris,” he said through a smile.
Throughout his book, which he had printed himself, were several yellow sticky notes for me to explain certain poems. They provided great insight into what pushes him to write.
“This is about a [Special Ed] teacher here in Morris.” And from that poem: “You have the ability to hear the symphony within their hearts, / These kids aren’t slow; they just got a false start.”
“A neighbor’s child died at birth.” He wrote: “Sometimes things just done seem fair, / That’s just a sign – doesn’t mean someone doesn’t care.”
“A neighbor and a friend died.” ... “A friendly hello, a smile, a little laugh, or a wave, / These are some precious memories to save.”
“To cheer up my wife.” ... “Is it something someone said; is there anything I can do, / Or is your memory just taking you back to when you were you?”
“When my father died two clocks in the living room stopped. I was rushed home from the service, and my mother told me about the clocks stopped at 12:10 p.m. I unplugged them and one started again. The other wouldn’t.” ... He wrote: “Every once in a while, I feel that cold chill, / The shiver goes away as I think of him still. / The warming glow that follows, I just know, / As he passed through – he touched my soul.”
And the time he almost died, overcome by toxic fumes. ... “I could feel the presence of Him near, / I could speak but no one could hear. / Colorful flowers and birds were all around, / It was calm and beautiful without a sound. ... Once again I became a name with a face, / My pulse got stronger beating a steady pace. / Death is a small price to pay for a moment of bliss, / Knowing I will torment the grave once again with death’s gentle kiss.”
Sometimes he just drops a thought on a page:
“If you listen, can you really hear what you said?”
“Just because you speak doesn’t mean you said anything.”
It felt good that day, thanking Richard for his gift. I wanted him to know his words are important. Since then he has given me “Touched By A Few II.” With a promise of more to come.
“I write what comes to me when it comes. I am still inspired by people,” he wrote.
“It doesn’t matter from what walk of life, I see and feel things. I use this gift as an opportunity to share hope with others.
“To touch someone in need, give hope, or even peace is the purpose of these writings. Somehow, [IT’S] [ME] still being touched by a few more.”
Good reasons, I’d say. Fits well with his rhyme:
“Continue I will to write and tarry, / ‘Til all your burdens He will carry.”
• LONNY CAIN is the retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa and was a reporter for The Herald-News in the 1970s. Email to email@example.com or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.