I remember the “moment.” I was sitting in the far back row in a banquet hall in Carlsbad, California on May 30, 2010, a place where perhaps nearly 200 people or more had come together to pay their respects in honor of a man who had passed away on April 9, 2009. He had contracted a particularly aggressive form of cancer during the early fall of 2008. His surviving wife, her family, and his, had planned this “Celebration of Life” for months. I’d been in California less than three months, arriving from Kansas to dwell here once more after being gone for over 27 years. A good friend of mine who, like me, had attended the same high school as the man being honored that day, had invited me to this gathering several months before, long before I came back to California, and had been urging me to come after I arrived. I wasn’t sure whether I really belonged there at this gathering. After all, I had been gone for so long and, even though there were going to be many people there that I once knew from high school, I felt uneasy. I almost didn’t come. A day or so before, at nearly the last minute, I decided to. Why, I wasn’t sure. Perhaps I was curious. Perhaps I would at least be able to see and reminisce with some old friends. Or perhaps it was something else, some instinct buried deep within my soul that told me someone magical would be there. Those instincts proved correct. It was a “moment” I’ll never forget.
As I sat there listening to the opening remarks by some of the few close family members and friends, I gazed around the large room where we were all sitting. I was simply stunned by the preparations that were made for this celebration. There were literally HUNDREDS of photographs and assorted memorabilia scattered around the room, ALL in tribute to this honorable man. I was in somewhat of a state of shock to be honest. In my world, when someone dies, there’s a short gathering of a few close family members and friends for the funeral, the interment afterwards, followed by the customary dinner provided by the local church. And then it’s over. Everyone goes home and pretty much goes on with their lives the next day. But what I saw on THIS day took me completely by surprise. So did what happened next.
When she took the stage, stepped up to the microphone, and began to speak, I remember as if my body was bolted upright into my seat. I thought, WHO is this?! She was stunningly beautiful, impeccably dressed, remarkably composed for such an event, and she had this “aura” surrounding her that had me spell-bound. For a moment, it was as if no one else was there. All I could see and hear was her. Honestly, I’d never felt anything like that in my entire life as I did at that “moment.” I was immediately taken with her, totally captivated. Time ceased. When she spoke, I remember thinking back to something one of my bank supervisors had told me one day. He said, “Gus, it’s not only WHAT you say that matters, it’s also HOW you say it.” If there was ever anyone I’d ever met until that fateful day that personified that statement, it was her. She was, and IS, entirely about substance AND style. A woman I've often described in this manner; If Webster's dictionary ever wanted to include a term that defined CLASS, it would include her name.
As the ceremony continued and more and more people got up to speak of the man being honored that day, I began to have this insatiable urge to meet her. It was a strange sensation, and even though I knew many of the people there, most of which I’d gone to high school with, the fact is I’d been gone for so long I felt somewhat out of place. As the closing remarks ended and people were getting up to leave, I searched the room for my friend who had invited me to begin with. She had been asked to give the opening prayers and I figured if there was any chance I could meet this remarkable woman who had me so captivated that entire afternoon, it had to be her to give me that chance. She agreed. The rest is history. We’ve been pretty much inseparable ever since we agreed to meet privately on Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, CA. less than ten days later.
Fast forward to today. Anyone who knows me and who knows of my writing style also knows this. I’m NOT a man of few words and I could go on forever about the woman I love. But rather than doing that, perhaps it would be best to share this with you, thoughts and words that mirror some of my feelings about her. I’ll leave it at that.
"Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colors seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate that will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life." ~ Bob Marley.