Today I spoke at a celebration of life. Some said I was “officiating,” or “presiding over,” and one put it as “doing the heavy lifting.” It was an honor that I was not sure I deserved . . . and in that way it was absolutely perfect.
His name was Jeff, and he was a larger-than-life kind of man who left a profound impact. If I could sum up what I learned of his general take on life in one word, it would be GUSTO. Others would be kindness, generosity, unconditional love, and heroism.
I never met him while he was alive, which is odd to say. But his spirit did come to me and introduce itself, and it was largely to that experience that I spoke today. The others – his family and friends – said the rest.
He comes now to those he loved as a yellow butterfly, which of course I interpreted to be about vulnerability and worthiness, delicacy and transformation. The man was too big for his body, and only in death has he become as free and omnipresent as he was always meant to be.
I said this and more today, which felt strangely comfortable and perfect. I looked into the eyes of those who loved and missed this man, and I could feel how my words fed them, nourished or filled up the spaces inside of them that his loss had emptied. These words flowed through me like a gift to all of us and I will be forever grateful for them, however they came.
After, people were so grateful to me – but what they didn’t understand or see was my own overflowing heart. All the loss I’ve endured and all the times I’ve shouldered burdens in my life finally came down to this offering.
And the man whose spirit I knew but body I had never met – this Jeff – he lives on through the stories of kindness and gusto, passion and love. He inspired me to be more present, more heroic, more loving, just by having lived.
How fitting that the lesson in losing Jeff was to embrace vulnerability as a strength – and to recognize worthiness as an embodied trait. I wasn’t sure I was worthy of today, but by stepping into it, by giving of myself in the way I was asked, I actually received an outpouring of love and appreciation.
Thank you, Jeff, and all those you left behind, for continuing to teach us how to love each other and ourselves.
Cheers to yellow butterflies, late night vigils, saving lives, and desiderata.