When I first started Ocean SF I worked as a server on several catering crews. I was newly widowed then making me horrid company and happy absolutely nowhere.
At the time working all weekend had the same quaility as going out with friends because just getting through the day was work. It didn’t matter where I was. There was no reprieve from my sadness and self imposed sense of isolation
Staying busy helped ease some of my suffering. Picking up 40 pound crates of dishes and standing on my feet for six to eight hours kept me in good physical shape. I could buzz back and forth to the kitchen and think my own thoughts. I liked the antonymy of this work. No one knew who I was. I had long since dropped my five carat diamond wedding ring and vintage tank Cartier watch off in the safety deposit box at the bank. I parked my Land Rover down the street and walked in wearing black pants and a black blouse with my apron tied around my waist just like a everyone else. I was sometimes paid well, other times not, but I took everything heading to the garbage home with me. Wine, flowers, cheese platters, pans of chicken piccata, fresh baked breads and so on.
One afternoon, I was working a funeral reception. This celebration of life was for one of those rare individuals who lived an exemplary life on every level. He came from the generation who fought in World War II, then returned to build the United States into the greatest nation in the world. They are referred to as “The Greatest Generation.”
As I replaced chafing dishes and restocked fruit platters I listened as his four children spoke of him. He was kind, he was loyal, he had been an engineer and was married for 54 years before his wife passed away. He took each of his grandchildren to their first Cal Berkeley football game and then later each of them to Africa. He told them all that he had loved them before they were born. As they grew he planned multigenerational camping trips with friends and family. Many stories were recounted of these trips, the thread that wove through them all included many bears and coolers, but they always had a happy ending.
He also loved flowers. His neighbors spoke of him fondly saying they took their fence down so they too could enjoy his beautiful garden. They would see him rain or shine outside every morning at 6:30 tending his flower beds.
Even though he had lived well into his nineties attendees were sobbing in their seats. I too was crying. I put out cream and sugar for coffee, and refilled the lemonade pitchers as tears spilled from my eyes.
I was crying because I’ve never known someone quite like this. Where does someone like this come from? And, how do we cultivate these qualities in our children, young adults and even in ourselves?
In June I will be teaching my first leadership class at UC Berkeley. I’ve been scanning history in search of exemplary leaders. But, none of them can better this beautiful man who touched the lives around him so deeply with his flowers and camping trips, his deep love of family and his fine character.
I’ve been busy cultivating my own garden is all I can say.
Love and blessings to all.