The afternoon was brilliant blue, like that robin's egg kind of blue that peeps out from the straw of a perfectly formed nest. Roses were scattered in abundant, sorbet-colored clusters around the yard in mismatched metal pails on cloth-covered tables, their scent gently caressing those who wandered by. Row upon row of white wooden chairs were filled with friends and family fanning themselves under the summer sun in their black jackets and dresses.
Jim would have loved this.
Our friend and brother and cousin and husband and son drew hundreds to this spot on a sunny, California afternoon to remember him and pay tribute. His spirit walked among us as those who loved him shared stories of his life, of his infamous smile and warm embrace, and of his unending kindness for both man and beast.
We shared tears and hugs and lamented together that he was gone too soon. Far, far too soon.
Isn't it always too soon?
It is both shocking and deeply sad to see the shooting star of one whose love and energy knew no bounds suddenly disappear from the sky. An abrupt death, while we all portend to welcome it for ourselves, leaves in its wake a harsh emptiness for those left behind. But would we have it any other way? Surely not -- surely we don't wish a slow, lingering death that drains the color and soul and light? We don't wish that for ourselves, or for anyone we love and hold dear.
But what we do wish for, always, is more time. We desperately wish for the one and only thing that we cannot have. We wish to run farther and laugh louder and cry harder and hug more, and to continue sharing the trials and tribulations of walking this earth with those that mean the most to us.
And so we gather . . . to remember.
As I sat listening to stories of Jim's passions and joys, of the love he shared with so many, of his optimism and bright smile and kind ways -- I wondered, as we all do at one time or another, how I would be remembered. Who would remember me? What would they remember?
This thing we do -- this gathering to memorialize the life of the ones we hold dear -- presents an opportunity not only to reflect on the life of those we have lost, but for self-reflection as well. A time to consider where we are in this world, what we are doing, and for whom. What good has come of the life with which we have been blessed? Are we truly living our best and most authentic existence?
Experiencing the loss of a loving human spirit allows us to turn and face a new direction. Take a different step. To find and pursue our passion. To renew our commitment to touch others in a way that brings hope and joy. It allows us to reignite our own inner light to burn brighter for ourselves and for those around us. And if we are lucky, it gives us a chance to celebrate and honor those we love and live by their example.
Remembering those who are gone allows us to grow.
And grow we will, for they have been our soil.