I went to a memorial service today that made me want to be a better person. That may sound trite. There have been a lot of funerals lately and the theme is always the same: kindness is the only thing that matters. You hear about all the lives that have been touched, all the people who were inspired, or just cheered up being around these folk, these beacons of light. So, really, do we have any other choice but to make the lives of our loved ones and those around us better? Is there really a choice but to be kind? I think memorials take the focus away from the minutiae -- the little things we worry about -- and focus us, quite profoundly, on the sublime.
There was a man who spoke today, who I thought I knew. He seemed so familiar and I have no idea why. As he walked into the hot high school auditorium we were sitting in, I felt sure I'd met him before but couldn't place him. He was tall, and nice looking, with thick grey hair, and black-rimmed glasses, a little like Colin Firth's in "A Single Man." And when he got up to speak we realized he was our friend's best friend in high school. When he spoke it choked me up. He spoke slowly and deliberately and not as a natural raconteur. Just a friend sharing high school reminiscences, stories of adventure, and teen angst, and pranks, and general merriment. I hung on every word.
We sat and sweated and wept and laughed. Tissues were rustled out of bags and shared, and we sweated a bit more. Everyone, it seemed, despite sweltering in the oppressive heat of the the non air conditioned high school auditorium on a hundred degree day in the San Gabriel Valley realized collectively that they were better for knowing Mark. There were elementary school friends, high school friends, college friends, people from Hollywood. Everyone had a story. And all of them were funny. We fanned ourselves with the programs, and laughed and cried and borrowed more tissues from each other.
And so, do we measure our lives by those we've touched? If we don't, we should.
Later, in a garden with the most abundant persimmon tree I've ever seen, the man wearing Colin Firth's glasses stood and talked and smiled with old friends and I probably should have told him how much his words meant to me, but I didn't. I am, it seems, frightened. Instead I contemplated The Defenestration of Cats and listened to people discuss Pie & Burger, everyone's favorite Pasadena diner. I wore black and heels because I always need to feel like a Kennedy at funerals. My girlfriends wore pink, one with an orange bag and silver shoes, that felt like summer in that warm garden with the ripening persimmons.
On the way home I stopped for tacos in honor of our friend. Carnitas with cilantro and finely chopped white onion, and mint lemonade. I drove around the little Pasadena neighborhood with its California bungalows and wondered whether I'd like to live there, and whether it was just the persimmons that were tempting me. Past a couple of open houses, but it was too hot to go inside. Instead, I stopped and wrote a message in thumbs to the tall man in the glasses who had eulogized his friend thanking him for the picture he'd painted.
This is all I know: be kind.