By: Joey Uva
Trevor, Grace and I drove up to San Luis Obispo this past weekend for an Easter celebration with family and a memorial service. Never in my 45 years of life have these particular two events intersected or even come close to one another.
We arrived in San Luis Obispo on Saturday morning to warm greetings from Trevor’s father, step-mother, and the rest of his family. Every time we drive up north for a visit, it feels like home. I have only been part of this family for five short years but it seemed like home since I first stepped in. This house is full of love. From the decades of pictures on the walls, to the drawings from five and six-year-old children who are now parents themselves –it fills the air with family, love, and a sense of welcome.
On Saturday afternoon we painted and decorated Easter eggs with the kids. With ninety eggs to paint and decorate, the children gave up first and went to the upstairs playroom. About six of us parents stayed to finish the multitude of eggs while sipping champagne, enjoying adult conversation, and joking around. I don’t really consider myself a very religious person; I think of myself as more spiritual. However, being raised Christian, the painting of Easter eggs still does remind me a bit of its symbolism. The egg is a symbol of the rebirth of the earth in spring celebrations and was adopted by early Christians as a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus. To me this is a combination of spirituality and religion, and one where it seems to coincide in harmony.
On Sunday morning, the children woke up to Easter baskets (sand pails) filled with toys, goodies, and chocolate. After the baskets were all ransacked, it was time for the Easter egg hunt. It was great to see all the children searching for eggs. I loved the looks of pure joy and surprise from the very small children when they found an egg to put in their pail; it was priceless.
The next part of our Sunday was to head to the beach for an Easter picnic and small memorial service for Stuart. Stuart is my father-in-law’s best friend and my mother-in-law’s brother; they have all known each other since childhood. Trevor is named after Stuart by way of his middle name. We all headed to the beach at Montana De Oro State Park –what a beautiful piece of heaven this beach is. We unloaded the cars, set up the picnic table, and got sunscreen on the kids so they could play in the sand and water.
About an hour after arriving at the beach we all headed to the edge of the water to have a short memorial service and set some of Stuart’s ashes out to sea. As the children played, we adults all gathered in what was called “The Circle of Life”. We all made a circle and passed around Stuart’s golf club, each of us speaking when the club was passed, saying what came to our mind from our memories of Stuart in our life. The Circle of Life is taken from an old Native American Indian tradition. I remember growing up in Oklahoma during my high school years, and being taught about the Native American Indian in our Oklahoma History class. Below is an excerpt from a famous speech by Native American Indian Phillip Deere from Oklahoma on “Life, the Circle”:
The circle teaches us how the Creator made things and how to live. It teaches us how we should look at creation. Life travels in a circle. In the East is the baby, to the South is the youth, in the West is the adult and in the North is the Elder. Then we return to the Earth Mother to start the cycle again. We observe what is ‘around us’ from the center of the circle. This develops our point of view. We must be careful not to become self-centered. Great Spirit, let me observe life from the circle’s point of view.
As we remembered Stuart in our Circle of Life, I could hear Grace and Elliot playing behind us where the tide would break and they would run through the water. There was the laughter of children mixed with the somber remembrances of Stuart shared by the adults. I found the symbolism to be very emotional and powerful, and realized that Stuart’s sister Leslie had somehow, through the divine connection between her and her brother, created this place and time for remembrance so perfectly.
In the final part of Stuart’s memorial service each family member was to take some of Stuart’s ashes and sprinkle them out to sea. As Leslie stood at the edge of the water with tears running down her face, her two daughters, Kelly and Annie, both walked up, one on each side to console their mother. To me, this moment was beautiful. As brief as it was, as quickly as it came and went, this moment spoke volumes to the Circle of Life.