About Last Night…
(with apologies to the mediocre movie of the same name)
One of the most memorable book scenes ever comes from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain. You probably know it already, but it’s the scene where the three boys, Tom, Huck, and Joe, listen in on their own funerals, hearing the whole community heap praise on the mischievous boys, who have been missing and are presumed dead. Last night, I felt like Tom Sawyer, getting a chance to listen to people say the most wonderful things about me – only I didn’t have to die – and there was cake involved! My friend, Tina Klein, along with Amber Woods and Gary Mariarossi of Treasure Coast Lexus, put together a surprise celebration and secretly gathered a whole bunch of people from the community to eat, drink, share, and surprise the heck out of me.
Tina had asked me to come and shoot a charitable event at Treasure Coast Lexus, and I didn’t bother to ask her any details. Yesterday, I messaged her to ask if the event was formal or informal or whether it was Cinco de Mayo or Kentucky Derby themed, so I’d know what to wear to blend in while taking the photos. She didn’t give me any additional information, but she told me to dress like I normally did for a shoot. When I arrived at the appointed time for the shoot, I pulled into a far parking lot to make sure I didn’t take a space from a paying guest, and when I walked into the building, I was delighted to see a few familiar faces, including Tina. I didn’t have time to think, and I was still trying to figure out what kind of event was happening, but the room setup seemed pretty intimate. Plus, I was starting to see even more familiar faces, and I was kind of wondering what big event was going on that so many of my most-admired community heroes were attending that I hadn’t been aware of. I got my camera out and took a couple of photos, but honestly, I felt a little out of my league, like I’d crashed a country club soiree that would never have otherwise extended an invitation to the likes of me. Please don’t judge – it’s a very Catholic response.
I was thrilled to see Ken and Aileen Pruitt, who recently relocated across the state, and after greeting Aileen, I perched on the edge of a chair and quietly asked what kind of event it was because I’d been asked to shoot it and didn’t want to hurt Tina’s feelings by not knowing what I was shooting. Just then, Tina’s voice came over the microphone, and Aileen turned her attention to the speaker, so I did, too. That’s when I finally realized why I knew everyone in the room, and how many people had come together just for me. Yes, I know that makes me appear only about half as dense as I actually am, and I probably should fib and say that I wasn’t totally surprised, but I’m just not that good an actress. Tina and her sneaky operatives, including my own husband, who was down the street at the community theatre, playing the part of an oafish 12th Century monk, had caught me completely off guard.
There was wine and beer, courtesy of Treasure Coast Lexus, food provided by my friend, Scott Van Duzer and the crew from Big Apple (including my favorite pizza pinwheels), fabulous music from Don and Debbie Bestor of Fort Pierce Jazz and Blues Society, and a cake punctuated with purple and pink roses brought by Sandee and Art Allen. One by one, these amazing community volunteers and beautiful souls each got up and said the most awesome things – about me! Nearly all of them had been involved in my Speed Communicating Events at Indian River State College, and all of them had stories of students, organizations, or community members positively impacted – by me. I was trying so hard not to cry that I bit my lip until it started bleeding. You’d think this couldn’t get any better, right? Wrong.
Gary Mariarossi, who’d taken part in this year’s Speed Communicating Event, got up at the end of all these terrific tributes and told me that he and Amber and Tina had discussed it, and Treasure Coast Lexus wants to sponsor the Speed Communicating Event every year from now on. And to top it all off, my former student and aspiring photographer and videographer Mike Runyan had put together a video montage of Dan and me which included so many individuals from the community and so many events we’ve participated in together. It included Dan, me, our family, the grandkids and little kids who’ve been part of our lives, our beloved critters including the ones we’ve lost in the past year, and a surprise ending that depicts something that Dan and I may just want to put on our bucket list for that move to the mountains we dream about. I’m going to include a link to the video here, just in case you want to know what it might be. https://youtu.be/Nh0KTLjCTB4
The fictional Tom Sawyer may have enjoyed sneaking into his own funeral and hearing great things about the boy he’d been, but the truth is, every time I attend a funeral (something which seems to be happening more and more with each advancing year), I say a silent prayer that everyone in the room had the chance to tell the deceased how much-loved they were before he or she passed. As I sit here today with a heart full of love, a belly full of cake, and a smile that I cannot wipe away, I can’t stop thinking about last night. I feel so grateful to have had a chance to hear all the kind words spoken and experience the love of my community and the gift of such a wonderful evening. I wish everyone had a chance to be Tom Sawyer for a night because even though I am often tormented by the mean girl who lives in my head, constantly trying to make me feel like less than I am, she is really no match for the landslide of love that envelopes me every single day. I always thought the good things in my life happened out of luck, but you know what? I am not lucky; I am loved. A lot. How cool is that?