Remembering a friend with simple but challenging words

 

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Today we gathered with friends and family to say goodbye to an old friend. It was bittersweet in the way that memorials are; sadness and tears in the immediacy of loss, but also a special and particularly heartwarming gathering, seeing some friends again after long absence, and smiling at personal stories and memories of the life we were celebrating.

The service was beautifully simple. By the standard of so many I’ve attended it was actually brief. But the words that were shared touched me very deeply in that they were to the point. They didn’t require an accompanying sermon. They required no amplification. The few short readings shared from The Book of Common Prayer said all that needed to be said.

The family chose a scripture reading I’ve heard dozens of times before, but today the words gained life  as they described a special, very kind man. The challenges are simple and clear; not so easy perhaps to live.

“Let love by genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:9-18

This reading fits the life our friend will be remembered for. I don’t see a lot of ego in this brief passage–perhaps these calming words are worth contemplating in a world that likes to stir up conflict. Peace.

A plan is only as good as the sum of its parts

The only thing spontaneous about me is my hair. It wakes up in the morning and decides what it’s going to do for the day.  I’m never quite sure.

I, on the other hand, sink or swim according to the confines of my calendar.

I have a plan. Or I think I do.

I know that to some just the mention of the word “plan” brings to mind all the negatives associated with control. But if I didn’t start with a plan that coordinates my comings and goings between my work schedule, my personal needs and requirements, my husband’s very few expectations, my grandchildren’s school and play days, not to mention friends and other family birthdays and special events…and let’s not forget my weekly field trips and pleasurable exhales, well, I have to start somewhere.

And control? Believe me, I may not be spontaneous, but I hold very lightly to THE plan, because THE plan hardly ever comes together. It’s merely the jumping off point–the direction in which I face each day and hope for the best.

The last few days have been remarkably full, but also full of surprises.

We started with a plan. A very special little girl was turning five-years old.

 

We massaged our tightly bound schedules and celebrated with a preschool graduate.

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Then later that day we were off to a birthday party with all her friends.

 

It was all according to PLAN.

But at the same time as our plans were in full throttle, a good friend was changing hers. Or more accurately said, circumstances were changing and she was shifting accordingly.

Many of you have previously been introduced to my fellow blogger and friend, Andra Watkins.  After knowing Andra only through her delightful blog, The Accidental Cootchie Mama, last fall Jay and I had the opportunity to spend a nice evening with her and husband, MTM when they traveled from South Carolina to San Diego.

We were anticipating another brief visit in a couple of weeks when the couple returned from their anniversary holiday in Australia. We planned, there’s that word again, PLANNED to meet at LAX for at least a cup of coffee and a brief hug.

Sometimes even very well-coordinated plans change, too.

While boarded and ready to leave the tarmac, the jet experienced an on-the-runway “event” with another jet…and the next thing they knew, oops! They were grounded!

I may not be particularly spontaneous, but I can spot an opportunity when one presents itself. A few phone calls back and forth and we came up with  a whole new plan.

Guess who came to a 5-year old’s birthday at my home in San Gabriel?

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Sometimes we get lucky and as one plan falls apart another one comes together.

What a delightful surprise!

“To like many people spontaneously and without effort is perhaps the greatest of all sources of personal happiness.”
― Bertrand Russell

 

A Meet and Greet in the Birthplace of California

You must know by now that if I can fit a tidbit or two of California history into a story I’m going to do just that. This time it was easy.

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Two hours of unusually smooth sailing down the freeway and we were in the heart of historically-rich San Diego, first claimed for Spain by Juan Cabrillo in 1542.  See? I just can’t help myself.

And then there’s the perfect climate!

Many popular polls list San Diego as the best climate in California, and it was beautifully warm and sunny. I’ll tease with some gorgeous winter color.

There are so many parts of the city that I find fascinating but I’ll share another time. This visit to San Diego wasn’t about sight-seeing or history chasing.

Jay and I were off the curb to meet someone I’d only known through her fabulous blog, The Accidental Cootchie Mama.

Andra Watkins, an accomplished, published author, is one of the first people I connected to when in the earliest stages of my blogging experience.  No matter how little time I have for reading and keeping up with my blogging friends, I prioritize reading her daily posts, charmed and intrigued with her uniquely honest and personal writing style.

We welcomed the opportunity to share a lengthy visit with Andra and the equally interesting and friendly MTM. I wasn’t at all concerned that we would run out of things to discuss, and I found Andra just as charming in person as I anticipated.

The truth is, I felt at home with both Andra and MTM.  They are a wonderful couple, and although 2,535 miles separates Los Angles from Charleston, South Carolina, they feel close, like treasured neighbors.

In fact, some time ago I discovered that Andra’s grandmother and my maternal grandmother shared a last name. I did attempt to throw out a few more names to see if we could land on any that were familiar to the two of us.  Despite the fact we couldn’t make that connection, I’ve decided to simply ignore that fact and instead I am claiming Andra as family.

Thank you Andra and MTM for carving out the space and time from your vacation schedule to meet with two “slightly older” Californians. We had a wonderful time!

Debra and Andra

And if you haven’t yet been introduced to my friend and “cousin” Andra, you just must! It’s an ever-widening friendship circle, and you won’t want to be left out now, will you?