Saying Goodbye

It was getting on toward sunset as we walked across the rocky beach out to the pier. Thanksgiving weekend brought our family together on Catalina Island, at Campus by the Sea, the InterVarsity camp at Gallagher’s Cove. The weather was clear, beautiful and cold. Our gathered family and friends were serious and quiet, yet so glad to be together. The service was simple, even elegant. Our daughter had done a lovely job of planning, her sons spoke lovingly of their dad, we heard words of encouragement from scripture, some of them read by his handsome nephews.

All during that day, strange and wonderful things happened. Roils of fish just offshore in the cold Pacific brought large numbers of sea birds, including cormorants by the hundreds. A monarch butterfly flitted its brilliant wings in the back of the canyon. As we moved from the firepit, where the first part of the service happened, and walked across to the pier, where it would conclude, a solo great blue heron landed on the pier railing, watching our progress and taking off with his own unique salute as we began to approach. Then, just as we all assembled at the end of the pier, a lone pelican skimmed over the water, coming directly toward us. And as we finished saying goodbye that late afternoon, the dying sun sent soft colors toward the south, lighting on the clear white sail of a single sailboat. Mark would have loved that! We were there because he had asked us be there: together, remembering him with gratitude, thanking God for his life and gathering strength from one another as we stepped out into a different kind of life, one without him in it.

These colorful kayaks lined the edge of the beach, and as we were walking back up the canyon for dinner, I snapped this picture, hoping to capture some small sense of the beauty to be found in small, unexpected places. That’s what we’re all trying to do these days – find small, personal snapshots of God’s grace at work in a world which has been so profoundly altered, so painfully and permanently transformed for us all. Someone that weekend gathered heart-shaped rocks and spread them out on a picnic table for us all to see. Many of us tucked one away in a pocket or a suitcase, a tactile talisman of a memorable place, a memorable day.

Thanks be to God for his gracious gift of Mark, a good man, loving husband, devoted dad, son, brother, uncle and friend. Peace be to his memory.

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