Richmond: A Love Story

My neighbor’s husband died unexpectedly a few weeks ago. I know them from the neighborhood. I know that he played with his kids all of the time because I could see him and his three happy, silly, fun kids playing soccer in the yard. I know that they hate it when their cat viciously chases and catches a bird or a mouse because I’ve seen the mom and her daughters chasing after the cat in an attempt to save the mouse/bird. I know that like me, Eric would stop in Brattleboro at the Vermont Country Deli to get dinner for the family whenever he was passing through because once, when I was recovering from surgery, Jenn brought leftover sesame chicken and peanut noodles over for my family to eat because they “had too much.”

I have lived in Richmond, VT for 7 years now and have loved every minute of it. I love that I can walk to the Richmond Market, the post office, the playground…I love that the local dance studio, Arabesque, etc. is right down the street and I love that the owners of both Sweet Simone’s and Hatchet Tap and Table know my name and my story. I knew I loved it all of this time, but I didn’t understand how special it was until something else happened.

When I was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer in September of 2015, the Richmond community rallied around me. I had Richmond Elementary School staff dropping dinners off for me. My children’s friends parents huddled around my family like a group of penguins trying to keep warm. My husband ordered flowers from The Crimson Poppy for me to be delivered each day I had chemotherapy. Since the flower shop is closed on Mondays, the owner from Stargazer Gifts and Toys would drop them off at my house instead. My last day of treatment, she sent along some gifts for my children as well. Hatchet donated apparel to a fundraiser for me. I thought it was all pretty special and I told everyone about it and people said, it was a testament to who I am. And I thought, maybe, but there’s something about Richmond.

Then Eric died and a similar uprising occurred, but even bigger.

poehlmann-1The community sprung into action. The owners of the Lucky Spot bought a fence and started collecting donations for the family. Friends of Jenn and Eric put together a YouCaring page and a SignUp Genius and a Meal Train so anyone who wanted to support the family could do so. Not a day has passed that I haven’t seen a neighbor walking their dog, or dropping off a meal, or picking up their children. The Meal Train is booked through January.

Of course, the family is devastated. This wonderful man who was an involved and loving father and devoted husband has left this earth, but the response from the community has been like a big bear hug while Jenn and her children go about the business of trying to reinvent their lives with a giant crater in their hearts.

poehlmann-2Jenn and I are connected now, not only because of her generosity and kindness in my time of need, but because there is something about suffering and loss and knowing just how close death is that strips you to your primal core and allows you to show the world the scars on your heart and to not care how vulnerable that makes you. When you do that here in Richmond, your friends, family and community around you hold you up and say, “isn’t she beautiful and brave” and then they try to fill in your broken heart in the only way they can think of, with abundant love.

On September 10th and 11th, the town of Richmond worked diligently to put up and paint a fence at the Poehlmann’s Home. Carpenter Home Systems replaced the porch roof. Gardens were weeded and replanted, Landshapes/J. Hutchins provided gravel and supplies so that the driveway could be redone and the children played and laughed and jumped on the trampoline. Hillview Design Collaborative provided labor and Harvest Equipment donated the use of their brand new equipment. Yes, tears were shed and there was sadness, but because of the love, laughter came too. When neighbors would go down to Richmond Home Supply to purchase supplies, they would refuse payment to support the project. Paul Parker, the local pediatrician came with his son to labor the day away. THIS is the meaning of community.

poehlmann-collageThese are the reasons that Richmond is a sought after community and why it’s so hard to find a house to buy here. This is why people stay here. This community is invested in it’s members. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. At my daughter’s birthday party she and her friends discussed how they could support the Poehlmann family. They wanted to make their daughters presents and suggested that the whole birthday party head over to help paint the fence. Later that day, when my daughter was actually painting the fence she said, “this is what I really love to do. Help my friend and her family and have everyone being together!” There was a freshmen in high school explaining to her kindergarten sister that “when you are doing something to help somebody else, you want to make sure that you do the best job that you can!” This girl worked for hours perfecting the paint on the fence so there were no drips. I marveled at the amazing children my fellow community members were raising!

I know from talking with Jenn that despite feeling broken and battered and enduring a loss that feels like your heart has been ripped in half, the support that the Richmond community has provided has offered comfort. “The light shines brightest in the darkness” they say, in which case, keep on shining, Richmond.

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16 thoughts on “Richmond: A Love Story

  1. Thank you for reminding me of all the wonderful things I love about Richmond! It’s been seven years since we moved, but I have such good memories.

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  2. Maggie, I saw everyone building and painting Jennifer’s fence when I drove by this past weekend. And I thought, isn’t that just the sort of thing this community does. I have lived in Richmond since my husband and I got married 38 years ago. We raised a son here, and I run a small business. I would not live anywhere else. A few weeks ago my husband had a medical emergency. All is well now, but the love and support from friends and neighbors was amazing. Thank you for sharing Jennifer’s story. Please give her my best. Hope you continue to heal.

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  3. Hi Maggie
    We have never met personally but I cleaned for you dos while while you were pregnant with your friends baby. Not only do you have a beautiful family but you have a heart that is big enough for our whole town. You are an amazing person, mother, surrogate, wife, friend and writer. I have followed your blogs through all of these events and I really feel what you write about. I can picture myself sitting beside you as you write these amazing words. I wish you could write a book about all you have accomplished and all you have lived through. You have so many stories still to write ahead of you. Your friends that you speak of. I’m in tears just thinking about what they must be going through. My heart goes out that family. I wish I knew how to begin to help them. Please send them my well wishes and my love and lots of light and laughter in the future months.

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  4. What a beautiful ode to our loving home. I saw all the volunteers working and wondered what the circumstances were. I live in Jonesville so miss some of the local news. God Bless You and all that supported this family in need. What a kind and loving gesture…this is, indeed, what life is supposed to be about. Thank You!!!

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  5. I grew up in Richmond. Your post brought tears to my eyes. Your description of the Richmond community’s support for you during your cancer treatment and your friend during the loss of their husband and father is wonderful and not surprising. I’m writing this reply from my 7 year old son’s hospital room in Philadelphia where he’s being treated for brain cancer. It’s been 25 years since I lived in Vermont, but many of my friends from Richmond are still offering support to my son and our family. Thank you for sharing these words and pictures.

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  6. I cannot begin to imagine what you are going through-I have been reading through your blog. I haven’t been able to catch up completely, but my heart goes out to you and your family. I’ll be following your story.

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  7. Thank you Maggie, for this and all the other amazing posts. You have a powerful voice and I am glad that you continue to write your story and insights. Thank you and blessings on you and your family and community.

    Peace & Light,

    Heidi

    Heidi Dahlberg, (friend of your Mom and Steve) >

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      1. Maggie,
        Thanks for posting this article. I will never forget what a wonderful day we had working at the Poehlmann’s. The feeling of community and belonging was overwhelming. Like you, I’m continually amazed at the love and generosity extended from our community. It reaffirms my faith in humanity.

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