We come together at a special time of year
A time of joy and a time of remembrance
A time of gratitude for what we have been given
And especially for all the lives that have enriched our own
Whoever we are, we are never truly alone
We carry with us the influence of all those who inspired, encouraged, and supported us
We carry with us, in our very being, the essence of everyone we have loved and who has loved us
By the light of this flame, let us recognise with gratitude the many who have made us the people we are today
And know that the connections we build today
Create the lives we live tomorrow
The Wheel, by Wendell Berry
In a mist of light
falling with the rain
I walk this ground
of which dead men
and women I have loved
are part, as they
are part of me. In earth,
in blood, in mind,
the dead and living
into each other pass,
as the living pass
in and out of loves
as stepping to a song.
The way I go is
marriage to this place,
grace beyond chance,
love's braided dance
covering the world.
Yesterday's Footprints by Ric Masten
last summer whenever possible
my visiting granddaughter Cara
would worm her tiny hand into mine
and like Hansel and Gretel
we'd strike out from the house
up the "Barking dog trail"
to the "Creaky swings"
don't you love the labels
little children put on things?
and after a few "Sky flying"
"Watch me Grandpa!"s
it was on to the "Sneaky table"
where hidden in the shade
beneath a giant live oak tree
we would split the forbidden can of Coke I brought
"Damn it Dad her teeth will rot!"
rested and refreshed, we then ascend the "Slidey steep"
to check the water level in the "Water keep"
to lift the lid and take a peek
then down the trail in single file we go
through the "Witchy woods"
all the way to Arizona which is what
my spouse has dubbed the shack
she uses as her dream shop and studio
Grandma it seems, also has a knack for naming things
"If anyone calls tell them I'm in Arizona."
next stop — the family memorial garden
where we solemnly commune
with the trees Kim and Emil have become
chanting softly as we pass
"From ashes to ashes to flowering plum."
then wending our way
along a stretch of "Dusty dirt"
we search for yesterday's footprints
covering them with today's
"Backward walking" sometimes
"To fool our enemies and friends."
and always during the final leg
of this backyard expedition
my companion lags behind
little Miss Slowpoke gathering specimens
repeating after me the name
of every trail side shrub and tree
eucalyptus — sticky monkey
lilac — sage — madrone
and "Don't touch that it's poison oak!"
then suddenly: "We're home!"
last summer Cara and I collected
and polished these moments
leaving them along the path like pebbles
to be used in the distant future
the way a whiff of cigar smoke
brings my grandfather back to poke about
in the garden with his walking stick
the way my grandmother's face
at the taste of peppermint
her watchful presence close at hand
whenever I shake sand from something
that has been to the beach
I know that on some faraway tomorrow
a sip of Cola on a hot day —
a pinch of sage —
the creaking sound a rope swing makes
these things with Cara's help
will bring me back to life again
and thankful as I am
for such life extending crumbs
sadly I also know that the cigar smoke
and peppermint trick
can only be done by me —
in a couple of generations it all becomes
a banquet for the crows
Message, by Andy Pakula
My grandmother was an amazing woman. She was strong and determined. And she was incredibly cheerful in the face of the hardships that life threw her way.
One of the greatest bonds between us was cooking. She loved to cook. She knew what she was doing and did it without worry or fuss. She could make all the stodgy eastern European foods that her grandparents would have cooked - foods they grew up with in the old country.
And she also had style. She could make beautiful, delicate things.
My mother was a very functional cook. My grandmother was an artist. (Remember - we’re talking about the old days when men had not yet evolved to the point where cooking was possible for them.)
I wanted to cook and my grandmother was my inspiration.
One of the small things I learned from her was how to turn a red radish into a rose. She taught me to use a sharp paring knife to cut into the radish to just the right depth and with just the right distance between the cuts so that when they were soaked in ice-water, they opened up and became roses.
It was magic to me as a child - a magic she shared with me - a magic that connected us.
My grandmother died after I moved to London. She was ill for a while, but held on to the exact day of her 103rd birthday - and then, she was gone.
At the moment she died, I was in this building - in the kitchen. And I was doing something I hadn’t done for a very long time. I was showing someone how to make radishes into roses.
I am a scientist by training and by inclination. I am almost certain this was nothing more than a coincidence. Almost certain… But I also know that I want to believe this is more than coincidence. I want to believe that my grandmother’s connection with me was not completely ended with her death. I know I carry her memory with me, but a little bit more wouldn’t be so bad.
So, whether they’re coincidence or something more, spooky stories like this one are important to us. They reinforce connections that we value - connections that are lost because of distance or death.
I have heard many spooky stories from many people stories about connections to people who have died or who are far away. I suspect that most people have at least one of these stories.
[AP asks who has a spooky story about connection across distance or beyond life - hands. Invites people to tell stories]
The scientist in me wants to explain away these stories.
But they are true - whether they are supernatural or natural coincidence doesn’t matter - they are absolutely true in a different and perhaps more important way.
What matters most to us in this life is not how much money we have. It’s not what kind of home we live in or what we own. It’s not whether we’re beautiful or talented or can run fast or write books.
In the end, none of us will look back over our lives and say ‘I wish I’d bought more stuff.’
What matters is the connections between us. It is relationship that sustains us and gives meaning, purpose, and joy to our lives.
We exist in relationship and relationship is at the centre of our being.
Of all the abilities we might have, only one matters in the end - the ability to love. Love is how we build the life building and life-sustaining bonds between us. Love is how we make a life.
Let us practice life. Let us love.