A Celebration of Life

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A couple of weeks ago Jon and I attended my Uncle Willie’s Celebration of Life service in Olympia, Washington. When I heard the news of his passing about two weeks before the end of our World Tour, we were ready to pack up all of our artisan crafts and leave Oaxaca in a moment’s notice. We were sad, at a loss for words and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to mourn his absence and celebrate his life with my family. I wanted to get home fast so I could be with my family. I felt so far away.

My Uncle Willie brought everyone together that day. Friends and family, many of whom had never met, of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences in one room, with one thing in common- him. If one was to listen in on the service, they might have thought it was a comedy event and not a funeral. The laughter roared with one story after another of his crazy antics- posing as a fake news camera man at relay race events, participating in the annual “loser golf tournaments”, and hanging a fake arm out of the trunk of his car. He lived his life with humor and love and never complained, not even about the cancer that would take his life. My Aunt said he made a list of the reasons why he should be the one to get cancer and not someone else. His list included the fact that he had health insurance, a strong support system, my aunt Sue, and had lived a fulfilling life. He was grateful for each moment and each person around him.

I sat tucked between my sister and Jon in the second row amidst close to 200 people and looked around the room during one particularly heart felt speech. The one person not in that room, no longer present in our lives, felt more present than ever that day. In each person’s tear, laugh, sigh, and smile, he was there. And it reminded me how every day we live, we are creating moments and impressions upon others that will compound over time into the legacy we leave behind.

When we were traveling this past year, each moment, action and day was intentional. Deciding how to spend our time and where to go next were daily conversations. Simply buying groceries required advance planning and often involved more than three different forms of transportation. Each moment was an opportunity to absorb and learn about the world around us. We felt alive. Being back in our comfortable bubble of San Diego I can see how easy it is to simply exist without really living. Grocery shopping is effortless. I find myself concerned with how much time things take- how much time it takes to find parking, how long the traffic will be, how long the line is at the DMV. In a world when we want things to happen fast, we seem to lose so many moments in our lives.

However, Jon and I often remind ourselves that we now have the opportunity to shape each moment more so than ever. (This is the silver lining of being unemployed) And just like during our travels, we find ourselves discussing daily how we want to spend our time, where to go next, and even what our plan is for getting to the grocery store. We are living each moment a little more intentionally than we did before, more like my Uncle Willie did. It seems his legacy did more than just give us wonderful memories and laughter. It has also shaped our lives and inspired the legacy we wish to create which involves savoring each moment and person around us in a daily celebration of life.

 

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This post is dedicated to dear Uncle Willie and his amazing wife, Aunt Sue

Another piece of Uncle Willie’s legacy was bringing the family together before and after the service to create new family memories:

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Capitol Lake

 

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Mom, Aunt Nancy and I building a tiny Japanese pagoda as a team! We reminded ourselves that it was “meditative” no matter how much our eyes and fingers hurt putting it together.

 

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Have you ever heard of Michigan Rummy? It is the must-play card game our family plays any time we get together. And Grandma always wins.

 

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Mom made a salsa meatloaf and Dad brought the oysters. It was such fun eating together as a big family.

 

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Cousin Kim and Jaime hosted a brunch at their beautiful home the day after the service. We chatted with Jaime in Spanish (woohoo!), played darts with Uncle Harry, won the bow’n’arrow competition, enjoyed mountains of delicious food, and watched the finals of the US Open. A fun filled day.

 

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My Dad and Jon snuck onto a golf course to play one hole. We joined them for a few minutes until we saw a cart coming and ran away.

 

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Kelly, has your kitty been playing over at the power plant again?

 

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Froggie who joined us for the post-service dinner at Kelly’s house

 

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Finally saw the Space Needle for the first time since I was tiny! It was a whopping $22 to go up it so we skipped the elevator ride and enjoyed the view of the outside until our necks hurt.

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