I hope that I will be so energized, curious, grateful, and engaged if I live into my mid-90s!
The next deeply emotional experience came about from a gathering of dear friends with whom I recently reconnected. We have formed an intentional circle of spiritual support, to sustain each one in our creative explorations of our passion and purpose in life. It is a powerful affirmation of the biblical teaching, "Wherever two or more are gathered..." The sense of being in the flow of Spirit, uplifted by prayer and sharing from the heart is a gift I cherish, and for which I am ever grateful!
The following day, Saturday, was the annual event called Elephant Fest, which is the gathering of those who "remember those who forget", the Alzheimer's Support Network in Naples, FL. This is such a wonderful, vital group of people, who have been quietly working miracles for families and caregivers dealing with Alzheimer's -- for 30 years!! The Elephant Fest is their only fund-raising event, and they do not receive funding from the national Alzheimer's initiative. Yet they support thousands of struggling souls as they make the journey through love and loss that is Alzheimer's. I simply cannot give enough praise for their dedication and unflagging help to all in Collier Country who request their support. They offer workshops, bring in nationally known speakers, help families dealing with difficult behaviors, residential care placement assistance, and programs designed to allow family caregivers to bring their loved ones to a safe, protected environment, while the caregivers enjoy a couple hours' respite. They are unsung heroes (and sheroes) in this overwhelming world of Alzheimer's Disease.
The Elephant Fest is held at a unique Naples attraction: The Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens. This excellent location adds a festive, wild flavor to the day, which includes visiting the animal attractions, food & face-painting, feeding giraffes, taking boat rides on the lake, and a sweet, loving memorial service at lakeside where loved ones are remembered by floating flowers on the lake. It is a touching tribute made all the more special by the beautiful setting.
Though I have sung for this event for many years, each time it is a bit different in feeling. There were many more gathered than I recall from years past, no doubt because the numbers of families affected by AD is escalating daily. There were tears, yes, but also smiles through them, hugs of encouragement, words of connection and healing and hope. And there were moments of laughter, too. One such lighter moment was when the monkeys on an island in the lake joined me for the opening of one of my solos! It's a humbling experience to be upstaged by monkeys. Loud, howling monkeys! Luckily, they only grabbed the spotlight for a few bars, then lost interest. It was funny that they didn't "sing" along on any of the other songs, but waited until a large audience was assembled before making their very vocal contribution :) The other kind of stunning moment, that was for me alone, came as I was just beginning to sing, prior to the service, waiting for people to gather. In mid-song, I glanced up, and met the gaze of a regal lioness who was seated on a large platform in an enclosure just across from me. She looked directly at me, calmly checking me out, ears flicking to listen, then I apparently passed muster, because she laid down and relaxed there during the other songs. Whew, am I glad she was not in a critical mood!
The weekend also included a very moving church service which highlighted those who have served our country, honoring and remembering them in music, word, prayer and spirit. The playing of Taps, with two trumpets, one echoing the other from the balcony, brought tears, as did the deeply thoughtful, insightful sermon, about the Greatest Generation and how our generation needs to be great to foster the future.
And then, on Veteran's Day, I was again honored to sing a memorial for a man who, also a decorated veteran, touched many lives through his work with the YMCA and was a role model and mentor for so many young men as they grew up -- many of whom took time to come and offer a tribute after 50 years!
So much emotion. So many memories. It occurs to me that it is not enough to remember, honor and reflect on those who have gone, but we must open our hearts to let their life lessons and learning meld with our own. And then act from that deepest wisdom, love, and example to bring positive change to our own world. To focus our energy, creativity and love on living Life, with our entire being. To take the wonderful examples of dedication, service, strength and honor, and transmute them into human intention and action in this present moment. So, while I am saddened by losing so many of our greatest generation, I am also enriched by their loving service and wisdom, and will seek to transform these emotions into motion. Living a life that is informed by these principles and putting them into daily practice in my own life and service is the very highest tribute I can offer!