Strong winds and smiling moons / by Emily Holmes

Just over a week ago, I was standing with family friends at their son's church dedication and today, I remembered a friend at my first Los Angeles funeral. The close proximity of these two events was not lost on me. I was again reminded of the cycle of life. It's fairly easy to lose sight of it in the mix of daily hustle and bustle. I feel like most of us take pause when a death arises to remember this cycle, but then we so often forget about it in the minutea. I feel like the closer I am to a spiritual life and the more presence I have in each moment, the more likely I am to remember the cycle and the more at peace I am with it and life in general. It brings up gratitude for me. It forces me to surrender to seeing what is real and what is not, and to remind myself of the role I play in manufacturing all that is in the Not category.

I was happy to be standing with my friends and their baby son as witness to his being now and how he might shape all our experiences to come. It's humbling and also daunting to throw such expectation on a child. I don't like feeling manipulated by churches and have often turned away from them for that reason. But there was enough honest universality in that ceremony to not leave me bitter from it.

Then today, gathered with hundreds of other mourners (ranging from atheist to devout Jew), we laughed and cried over our dear friend Gary who was a kind soul, a spiritual warrior, a cantor, a rabbi, a profane comic musician, a good friend and devoted family member. I knew only part of his story but sometimes you meet people who resonate strongly with you. My friend was one of those for me.

Any Angeleno will tell you that the weather leading up to the past weekend was anything but typical. Very windy and dramatic. Uncharacteristic for this time of year. Then, when the winds settled, there was the kindest crescent moon over the night sky. I've been thinking about my friend Gary through it all--a dramatic departure (one I also witnessed in the passing of dear friend Peter Kapetan, another great performer) followed by a graceful smile (be it in knowing, or gut-busting laughter). I felt him with me in some watchful way.

I know with time, I'll only have memories and forget much of these moments when grief is still fresh. In a way, I feel like when grief comes, and we become present in our life, we actually bridge the gap between the living and the dead, like a short window allows for connection between the two realms. Some of you will write me off as crazy here, and that is obviously at your discretion. I believe it and am still very keenly rooted on earth and am doing the mundane like my kid's laundry, as we speak.

So, I'll just leave my thoughts on life and death, beginnings and endings, to anyone who happens to be reading. Grow and be strong, little one, and travel well and rest, Gary. Thank you for reminding me of where I am and what I have yet to do.