After spending the month of February loving things on Facebook, several friends had serious discussions with me about the need to continue to write. They made a special point to do so. As I always say, if I have one gift it is picking friends. People who encourage me to do things they think will enrich my life and cheer for me to say what I think (whether they agree with me or not.) I resisted at first, but February was a good month to consider a lot about what I think and believe and the daily discipline of writing it down was good for me. Scary, too. As an introvert by nature, sometimes I become too possessive of my own thoughts and don’t want to take the risk that comes when you think out loud. Especially publicly. But since I have vowed that this is the time of life I will continue to do things that scare me, here I go…
March has been an emotional month and a pivotal month in the lives of many of my friends. As many of you know, Ed Ristaino was a member of our local hot air ballooning community and just two weeks ago at an event in Georgia he lost his life in what was really a freak accident. A crazy unexpected storm came up and after dropping the five skydivers in his basket to safety, his balloon was essentially ravaged by the storm. Even in the midst of this, Ed kept his cool until the end, talked to his crew and let them know what was going on, and from what I have heard did everything that he was supposed to do. Still, we lost him to this earth and none of our lives will ever be the same.
I didn’t know Ed well, but he was well loved by many of those that I love and I was around him on quite a few occasions. Plus he was a member of this community of people that I am bonded to and love so dearly, so his death hit pretty hard. Seeing those you love in pain wrenches your heart. He was one of those people I wanted to know better, so I will always hate that I did not get that time. My favorite memory of him was the first time I saw him sky dive. I was sitting out on the field at a Montgolfier Day party, having just watched most of the balloons ascend, changing my camera battery. All at once I sensed something overhead and there was Ed, having ridden up with another pilot and jumped out of their basket. What struck me the most was the beauty and the grace with which he “flew” and landed…..and how quickly he recovered, and ran over to his own balloon and took off. I am sure my eyes were sparkling as I watched the whole thing….that joy of life and realization that you can go from one adventure to another. Fun stuff. The kind of people I like to hang out with.
But Ed is to be remembered for more than that. While I think he will be appreciated for that side of him, he will be remembered for his investment in the lives of others. He used his hobbies to bring joy to other people’s lives, his job to bring revived health. I remember him giving Amanda, the handicapped niece of some of my ballooning friends and a constant presence at most ballooning events (our mascot!), her first balloon ride. Who didn’t shed a few tears watching that? He was a mentor for people like my friend Mike, who is studying to be a balloon pilot, and was helping Mike realize his dream of owning a balloon. He was an encouragement and a man of vision. His memorial service had moments of sadness, because his presence will be missed, but mostly it spoke of a man well loved and a life on earth well lived.
My last long conversation with Ed started with me asking his advice about my goal of skydiving in 2012, but somehow worked into his reflective thoughts about losing his dad. One thing I am quite confident in after that conversation….he would not have mourned his own life, nor want life to stop without him. He’d be encouraging our next adventures! As I do skydive in 2012, I am sure I will think of him. And while I will never have his grace, I hope I carry with me a piece of his adventurous and loving heart.
In the midst of celebrating Ed’s life, we also celebrated the marriage of Allie and Drew, balloonists who are the children of balloonists, all friends and very special to a lot of us. While it could also have been a time for mourning, it was a time of great joy. There were smiles, there was laughter, there was dancing. There were people supporting each other and determination that there would be joy! When you all come together with that determination, how sweet it is to experience.
I keep thinking of Ecclesiastes 3 this month….
” 1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”
And then these great verses..
” 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet<sup class="footnote" value="[a]”> no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.”
As this week we have all tried to get back on normal footing, we find there is no real normal. The pain of this life doesn’t stop, there will be more tears and more missing him, but yet we take comfort in the memories, cherish his impact on our life, and find reasons to laugh again. This week I have already experienced more loss as my brother-in-law’s dad passed on. He will be missed, but his big personality will continue to be remembered. Also this week I got to hug members of my family, laugh with my friends, and work alongside my co-workers. We have been gifted with each other in this world, a great gift, but it is a temporary gift. Should we spend our days mourning that or fearing the loss of those in our lives? Or do we celebrate each day with each other in gladness? Ecclesiastes is quite honestly a depressing book in most places. But it does contain a lot of truth. You can choose to see each moment of life as meaningless…..or you can choose to live it fully, happily, with purpose, and with thanksgiving.