At an Indian restaurant in an unremarkable strip mall not far from home we danced to Benny Goodman. Bemused but accommodating, a waiter recorded our antics. With three people I just barely know, I celebrated a life none of us had known.
Six hundred miles away, someone pushed the button at a crematorium and a woman, much-loved, took her next journey.
My friend J. lost her father earlier this year and her mother last week. But “lost” is a euphemism that doesn’t capture their passage. Of anyone I have ever met, J. seems most likely to know exactly where her parents are and to have retained a profound sense of connection to them, even now.
Her mother’s impending death was the most joyful life affirmation I’ve ever witnessed. As her mother’s health faltered, J. put out a call for cards and laughter. Through social media, they shared stories and pictures and moments that pulsed with love. They decorated the simple pine box in which her mother was to be cremated. As her mother hoped they would, they danced as the crematorium did its work. And they invited us, any of us, all of us, to join in.
So I did and I invited my lovely and unsuspecting lunch companions to join me.
I have never met J.’s mother and I watched their journey from afar, but I felt very close to both of them on Tuesday as my friends and I swayed with Benny. They taught me a lot about life by how they chose to approach death. Lessons about elevating love and finding joy. About the incredible, incomparable importance of sharing. About intentionality in creating — and living — great moments.
From the buffet, we filled plate after heaping plate with Indian delicacies. Sitting together at the round table, my new friends showed me how to assemble the panipuri. We filled crisp puffy shells with soft potatoes, sweet tamarind sauce and spicy mint water, popping the succulent packages into our mouths, one after another. Rich, complex flavors vied for attention with the medley of textures and temperature. I thought panipuri is like life – the more you stuff in, the more delicious it becomes.
My belly and heart full, I paused, overwhelmed by the delectable moments piling up around me, grateful for the reminder to savor them.
Life Lesson #28: Make life delicious.