Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Beginnings and Endings

Our dear friends Rick and Gretchen gave us a gift a few years ago that has become a dinner ritual most nights.  This blessing bowl is an enhanced version of the "good part, bad part, silly part" of dinner conversation we've enjoyed for many years; the blessing bowl adds a little direction and reflection to the daily events of our lives.  Each piece in the bowl is symbolic for something important:  gratitude; kindness; valley highs; mountain lows; remembering; loss; sacred moments; beginnings and endings. Last week, the two pieces that were selected the most were the "beginnings/endings" piece, and the "sorrow/loss."  To me, in the contexts in which they were used, the two are interchangeable.  This past week, it certainly felt so.
Last week was the Beginning:  of a new school year; of new opportunities; of trying new things; of a new season.  We celebrated the beginning of the school year by shopping with Grandma for new shirts; going out to lunch with her and eating celebratory ice cream; meeting new teachers; packing up new school supplies; learning new bus routes, routines, and schools; choosing special dinners for the nights leading up to the first day; a last hurrah on the lake.  

And yet as proud and happy as I was to have three children eager and excited to go back to school, it was also an ending.  I felt keenly the loss of summer, of days that stretched before us without the constraints of time and schedule, of memories that I was largely responsible for creating, the ones my children store in their treasure box labeled Childhood.

The first days were very good, and the beginning of the school year - total success - was something to celebrate.

(Studious and ready for work at Preschool.)

But then, at the end of the week, Jeff and I flew back to California to be with our family.  We went to bid a final farewell to our beloved, Leo Vanoni.  Hundreds gathered at the fairgrounds and lingered through the day - telling stories, sharing tears and laughter.  "Family is everything and everyone is family," that's the motto by which Leo lived his entire, amazing, inspiring life.  Leo's life philosophy didn't click for me until this farewell trip: Leo Vanoni was a man of great faith who quietly and humbly lived out that faith in every action he took.  His heart was huge; his spirit, gentle and kind; his words and actions, loving and affirming.  In death, he has awakened me to something new about him.
The marquee at the fairgrounds says it all; dozens of photos cataloging a life well-lived; Leo's Fair Chair and hat; a gorgeous photo of Leo, holding an avocado, by his talented granddaughter Nicole Ennis-Brooks.
Jeff and I said our own private goodbye to Leo on this quiet stretch of the Pacific Ocean, opposite the fairgrounds.
Jeff and his cousins each wore a Bolo tie, one of Leo's own, as requested by Leo.
As we made the exhausting flight home on Saturday night on the red-eye, eager to see our kids, I gazed out the window at the gorgeous, gorgeous moon.  An ending.
Hours later, I watched the sun rise over the horizon, 3,000 miles from where I'd last touched ground.  Beginning.

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