I attended the funeral of a long time family friend today. Rather than discuss the funeral or pay tribute to a good man today, my thoughts are on what a unique experience it was to be in the room with nearly every adult that had an influence on my life. I know most of the readers of this blog won't know these names, and I apologize for that. But since I know several of the readers are old friends who will enjoy some memories, I will share a few.
I grew up in both Centreville and Oakton, VA. Personally I lived longer in Centreville than I did in Oakton. But overall, my family lived longer in Oakton, and my father was the Bishop there, so it feels more like that is our hometown than anything. I graduated from high school in Oakton, and therefore I will have to claim it as home.
Oakton was a unique place to grow up. Living there meant being in a ward where presidential elections had personal meaning to several ward members. During one presidential election year 4 major players in the elections were in our ward, and our ward made the gossip and speculations columns more than once. We saw a ward member parodied on SNL (and as teens, loved to do our own imitation of him privately). We've seen our home teacher's name dragged innocently through the mud. We've watched our Sunday School teachers on CNN. But to us, they were just other ward members and the parents of our friends.
Sometimes a funeral can feel like a family reunion of sorts, and today was no exception. And for me, the experience of looking around the room and feeling the presence of so many of my most influential leaders was beautifully overwhelming. More than once the thought crossed my mind that I was in the village that helped raise me. I could see so many faces and remember exactly the impact they had on me, or the lesson they taught me. I saw Sister Bradford who taught me so many things I can't name them all, but 2 stand out- it's okay for loud women to marry quiet men, and there's never a reason to conform. Sister Wheatley who along with Sister Bradford instilled in me that it is always okay to smile- especially when you are crying. Bay taught me that strong women are the sexiest women. Ann showed me that perserverance pays off. And more than once told me that if I dared follow her footsteps, she'd come and stop me in my tracks! Bro and Sis Garfield who never cease to amaze me with how much they love each other, and that tragedy can bring you closer. Another woman (who's name is too easily googled) who taught me young that being strict doesn't make you a bad person. It just makes you disciplined. And that there is no reason to not just do the right thing.
But mostly the thing that I learned today is that some people are truly born great. And they take that and increase it, and make it a hundred times better. And in others there is a latent greatness that they must find. But mostly I realized that great people are great at all they accomplish, and not just one thing. There are people with extreme talents out there. But they aren't the great people. The great people are the ones who are great in the sharing of all they have to offer. They are the ones who don't back down, and who can be relied on, no matter what the situation.
I just wish it hadn't taken a funeral for me to see how many great people were in my village.
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