It snowed Thursday and Friday last week.
The days were delightfully gray and cold; wet and sloppy and most definitely weather for jackets, hats and scarves.
Thursday morning I attended a memorial service for J's father, who passed away three years ago this Halloween.
I was honored to be included and reminded of how short life truly is... at any moment it could be taken away.
I am of the opinion that this does not mean that one should live in fear of death or heart failure or freak bus accidents, but rather that you should tell the ones you love that they matter immensely every chance you get.
I make a practice of telling my friends that I love and care about them too.
The snow coated everything in the hush of heavy white; the muddy drive leading into the cemetery was a dull brownish gray; mixing to a tan where the snow had melted and then covered again.
We were the last car to arrive.
Everyone was standing around the plaque of the gravesite. Sitting in a line of green wood and canvas chairs in front of the astro-turf pedestal upon which a folded up American flag, a small leather book and a reddish metal canister were displayed.
A basket full of paper cups, lids and a thermos coffee pot was propped on a chair in the second row.
We walked up to the group; steaming cups in their hands from which wafted the smell of artificial hazelnut or caramel coffee.
Each person standing had a somewhat different look on their face: awkward, complacent, antsy, relaxed, cold, staid but cheerful, smiling simply and still.
Music was blaring muzzily out of J's step-mom's (B's) pocket: her phone set to Pandora mobile I suppose.... she began speaking.
"Thank you all for coming. It's been three years and it's finally time..." she stated somewhat cheerfully, but warmly.
Her pocket renewed it's loud blaring and then switched to some sort of commercial.
"I'm not sure if you all know this, but T prayed each and every morning. He prayed for you kids..."
-------'Are you prepared for...' some actor's voice interrupted her, blabbing on scratchily about life-insurance... she continued on.
"So I would like to read from my list of..."
-----------'Be prepared today!' the commercial ended with buzzing chimes which faded into a Christian Rock song...
I noticed that at one end of the circle, G, E, H and J had begun to link arms; H grinning at me sweetly across the circle. I shuffled closer to L and linked her arm; she slipped hers into C's. Halfway through the speech, he linked his into J's.
Suddenly, the gathering was put on the spot.
"Now, let's everybody say something nice you remember about T," B commanded.
Little by little, each member began to speak... at some point, E stepped over and grabbed B's blaring cell-phone and shut it off.
"I remember how we'd be in the car with him, and he was really a quiet guy otherwise, but when we were driving and someone almost had and accident or made a mistake or whatever, he would yell 'CRASH!' really loudly and it always scared me and made me giggle at the same time..."
"He never did that with us in the car," J began, "but I remember when I totaled the truck---"
"Yes, are there any of his kids here who didn't wreck one of his cars?"
"He was always calm and caring about it. He cared more about people being safe than the vehicle---"
"Yes, he would say, 'Cars can be replaced; people can't."
"He paid for my school in New York--"
"Yeah! He was always supportive. For example, when I wanted to go live in Paris, he was all for it. He was the parent whom you went to when you wanted the other parent to agree with you.."
"I only met him once, but my first impression of him was the same as what you all call him all the time--- teddybear. Tall and round and bearded and warm." I said.
Everyone rambled on for a while remembering T.
Apples and peanut butter.
Working on electronics and computer parts with him.
E-mails about selling cookies.
Some slight disagreements flowed briefly in and out of the conversation. A suggestion to sing was accepted and then refused. Finally the remembrance was over-- I brought my end of the arm links around and linked with J's step-mom so we could have a circle hug.
We all trudged back to our cars.
"H and J, do you have class?" B asked.
"Yeah, but I'm thinking I'll skip it today," J responded.
"Mine's not until later," H said.
"Let's all go to breakfast at the diner," I said.
"Great!" beamed B.
We piled into our cars and headed out; J and I stopping for H to leave her car at our house so we could carpool to the diner-- which had less than desirable parking options.
That morning we remembered, we ate, we laughed, we reminisced and caught up. A family with sets of blood relations and mostly step or half relations, but all one family.
People who had come together to remember a man who touched their lives.
A man who loved greatly and was loved by many.
He is missed, and he will be missed forever.
So, take the time and tell the people you love about the way they've touched you.
There's no time like the present.