Thursday, February 23, 2012


I love my Gram, faults and all.

Gram wasn't the nurturing, loving warm fuzzy type. She was the get-on-the-back-of-a-Harley-and-ride-up-and-down-the-coast-behind-some-greasy-born-again-biker type. She did that well into her 80's.

She had three boyfriends at one time after my grandfather died and she joined her church singles group at 70.

She put on her bathing cap and bikini and swam every day in her back yard during the summer.

She had no problem telling you to get out of your own way, or what she REALLY thought about you. Sometimes it was hard to hear. Mostly, it was refreshing.

As a young woman, she partied with Merv Griffin and Errol Flynn. She drew on her stockings, put on her red lipstick, and danced all night while my grandfather was at war and her mother took care of my mom.

She was wild and reckless and outspoken.

She loved to sing and dance and play dominoes and garden.

She had the same best friend for 90 of her 91 years.

She lived through her father and teenage brother committing suicide, as well as her stepfather. She broke her back in a serious auto accident, and beat cancer 3 times. She lived through the traumatic loss of her son.

She went to rehab for alcohol abuse at 68, and stayed sober.

She spent summers in the Grand Caymons and winters in Palm Springs with her best friend during the 1980's.

Gram suffered tremendously, but she also really lived. She was a remarkable woman, and she never gave up on herself or anyone else.

I saw her in December. She had Alzheimers, but she knew who I was and though she was frail, she still came out and watched us all dance in the living room as we decorated the Christmas tree and built a gingerbread house. The day I left, I climbed into her bed next to her, held her hand and just listened to her talk. I knew she was really miserable and she told me she didn't want to live that way. I couldn't blame her. I told her how much I loved her, kissed her on the forehead and left. My perpetually resilient Gram was ready to go.

In a few hours, I'll be getting on a plane. It's going to be strange to be in her house without her. I'm a little scared, to be honest. She was a constant for me in a childhood and young adulthood of constant change. I feel un-anchored. I'll say something at her grave when we put her ashes to rest beside my grandfather's. I'll say something else the next day when we gather with friends and family to remember and honor her. But for now, I'll share my good-bye letter to her because it really says it all.

My Dear Gram,

I know I have to say good-bye now. I’m sad about this, but I know it’s okay. It’s your time.

You have suffered more than anyone I know. You’ve also lived the most remarkable life in spite of it. Your suffering is almost over now, and I’m thankful for that. I’m also thankful for the great legacy you are leaving behind.

As you transition out of your life here, I want you to know that I love you. With great affection and delight, I will carry in my heart all of your stories, your pictures, your sense of adventure, your love of the outdoors, and your ability to light up a room like a firecracker. I miss your spark already.

You have imparted some of the most important life lessons to me: The first is how to be a life-long friend. Not many people can say they’ve been friends with someone for almost a hundred years. You and Stibsy can, though. You’ve always been honest with each other, even if it hurt the other’s feelings. But you’ve remained friends for nearly a century and there is tremendous beauty in that.

Second, you taught me how to be marvelous. Even if things aren’t perfect. Even when life is sad or hard or miserable. You choose marvelous, and then it IS marvelous. No matter what, you’ve always found a song on your lips, a sway to your hips, and a spring in your step.

You’ve also shown me that it’s never too late to change. You have always been brave…taking on sobriety in your late 60’s, forever working on your character, embracing your senior singlehood, faithfully asking God to change your heart even when it meant giving up life-long habits and comforts. This is what inspires me most of all. I know you didn’t feel brave at the time, but you were. Even though you were scared.

Thank you for being my Gram. Thank you for letting me be a part of your life. I’m happy you will see your Stevie and Grandpa and Auntie Marion and your own mom soon. I’m thankful you don’t have to hurt anymore, that you will finally be able to unburden yourself and rest fully in God’s Love. I’m thankful for your life here, and your life on the other side of this. I can feel the celebration coming.

One last thing, Gram…If God gives me a daughter and you see her before I do, will you teach her how to be marvelous? Sing and dance with her, show her how to move light on her feet, and how to be a really great friend, okay? And teach her it’s okay to be brave, even if you’re scared.

I love you with all my heart.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cliffs of Kilifi

Last weekend I was in Seattle for school. I've had moments of intense love and equally intense frustration during this program. Ayurveda is a whole new train of thought, complete with a new language (Sanskrit) and methodology. The science is mostly the same, but the philosophy is 100% different than western modern medicine. It's staggering at times and I feel a little bit like a fish out of water. Or a hipster without skinny jeans. Or Chelsea Handler without vodka.

I'm in a constant state of learning and traveling and adjusting these days. I'm also working hard to materialize these dreams I have. And they are BIG DREAMS. (Sidebar: It's pretty tiring chasing your dreams, amiright? My legs are burning and there's a definite stitch in my side.) I want things to happen RIGHT NOW, but this is going to require more work than just making a couple of phone calls and studying course material 15 hrs a week.

It needs strong legs.

It requires clear vision.

It takes faith beyond what I know I can do or have ever done before.

All week, I've kept returning to a specific memory of the first time I went to Africa. I was with my brother, Mike, and sis-in-law, Kim. After we completed the ministry portion of our trip in western Kenya, we split up from the group and went to see Mike's old friends, Jamie and Ginger Swift. They were living on the coast of Kenya at the time, in a tiny fishing town called Kilifi. I knew they were close to the beach, and if you know me then you know I connect deeply with the ocean. It is a child-like excitement that takes over my whole being when I lay eyes on vast ocean waters. I want to run directly into the water, fully clothed and jump head-long into the waves. So, as you can imagine I was stoked to see the Indian ocean, to watch the sunrise come up over the eastern edge of the water-sky horizon.

We arrived late in the evening after a turbulent ride on a tiny plane (where I was solidly convinced for at least an hour that we would not land in one piece), and made a 90 minute drive under a full moon across pitted roads and beautifully silhouetted trees. We pulled up to the Swift's house and, exhausted, I set my bags down, washed my face and fell into bed. I asked Jamie before I went to sleep if they lived close to the water. I could hear it, I could feel a gentle breeze, but when I looked out from the patio, I couldn't see it. All of the markers were there, but it felt just slightly out of my grasp. Jamie looked at Ginger with a conspirational smile and said, "Yeah, we're pretty close. We'll show you tomorrow."

So, with that, I went to bed.

I woke up to a household in full motion and breakfast being prepared. I asked Ginger what I could to to help. With a mischievous smile, she handed me a bowl of fresh pineapple and said, "Can you take this out to the table on the patio?" I went out back, set down the bowl, looked past the edge of a stunning sheer-drop cliff and saw this:

*This is a google image I found, but this is essentially it. But it was more amazing because I WAS THERE.

The place I longed to be; the ocean I could feel and smell and hear but couldn't yet see. The darkness, even with it's beautiful full moon, did not allow me to see what I had been eagerly anticipating. My brother and the Swifts rightfully teased me about it for the rest of the trip. They knew the ocean was there all along. They knew it would be there, apparent to all as soon as the sun rose it's sleepy head.

I'm traveling, chasing, working hard to get to where I want to be, to create the life I want to live.

My calling, my bliss. It's there. I know it is, all the markers are there. The little signs that point me in the right direction and reassure me that I am not lost and my work is meaningful.

It's just a matter of time until I can see it in the full light of day.