A good friend of ours died a year ago.  Suddenly and totally out of the blue.  Pancreatic cancer.  He was a real personality.  One of a kind.  He was loved by many and adored by his wife and four grown children.

The family decided to hold a special one-year memorial service this past weekend for family members and close friends.  We were honored to be included.

Our friend was a scratch golfer, so the weekend began with 18 holes of golf on Friday for those who ignore code red heat stroke warnings for mid-day outside activities.  That would be Sandy and me.  Ninety-eight degrees and no breeze makes for balmy golf conditions resulting in our best scores.  Ha Ha.  We had a blast.

Friday’s outing served as a warm-up for Saturday’s backyard memorial service.  We grabbed our coolest attire and set forth.  Sandy’s little pocket hankie soon was getting a mopping workout.  Heat radiated from the deck and tops of coolers.  The AC inside the house was appreciated.  At the appointed time, all of us filed out to the back lawn for the service.  Tiki-Tiki torches greeted us.  A dozen or so adorable towheaded and tanned grandchildren frolicked and laughed and were told to behave and to act respectfully. Dogs of all sizes tinkled and sniffed.  The puppy latched on to the hem of a toddler’s dress and wouldn’t let go.  I expected a scream, but she didn’t seem to notice.  I love this family. The one young mother trying to control anything scooped up her child who immediately arched backwards, stiff as a board, and rolled her eyes up into her head.

I tried to pay attention to the service which was beginning.  Amid tears, wife and children delivered heart-felt messages of grateful thanks for a life well lived and well shared.  They told stories of recent walks in the nearby trees where yellow butterflies lit on each of them and a rainbow appeared.  Then, a family dog lifted his leg in the central garden on a spot where ashes were interred last summer.  Everyone felt a special presence and connection.

Following these sad and touching testimonials, the religious service began.  The service was led by a trio of recovering alcoholics in t-shirts and shorts (smart!) from a church in the Sandhills.  The preacher had built a deck on the lake house and had stayed in touch. His sermon reminded us that we had better shape up here on earth or fire and brimstone would await us in that other place.  I felt myself sinking already if I had to stand much longer in that heat.  Some of the fire and brimstone was trickling down my back.  At that point, two of the church members sang beautiful spirituals to the accompaniment of the jam box, oblivious to the fact that the wind had picked up big time, the sky was turning very dark, and thunder was rolling.  Finally, just before some of us truly did go meet our maker in whichever place, the grandchildren released huge white balloon doves to their granddad.  The balloons were propelled by impressive updrafts of an afternoon storm, and then they were gone.

All of us felt drained by sensory overload and emotion and heat exhaustion.  We were invited to the next event, thankfully inside, where drink and a delicious dinner, beginning with tuna tartar, and many more family stories awaited.  A well-timed and much-needed gully-washer pelted roof and windows during our whole meal.  No one paid it much mind.  One guest must have eaten outside to cool off, because he was dripping wet.  Maybe it was just the sweat.

At last, Sandy and I bade our farewells.  Sunshine greeted us on the front porch and guided us safely home.  I’m sure there was a rainbow out there somewhere.  Life and death doesn’t get any better than that.