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Gary Horton: The bottom line

Full speed to port!

Posted: July 13, 2010 10:00 p.m.
Updated: July 14, 2010 4:55 a.m.

“So, what’s the bottom line?” Arnie resolutely and warmly asked. Behind him in a wooden casket lay his beloved wife, Candi. Before him, hundreds of friends overflowed the sanctuary into the cemetery courtyard.

Once an occasional Starbucks friend, but now a dear friend, Arnie was closing his eulogy for Candi. Heartfelt and gently, Arnie shared with us his and Candi’s wonderful love story of how they met, enjoying every moment of life with one another over their 27 years of marriage. He shared engaging stories of Candi’s unique life zest, talent and kindness.

Now the Navy engineer in Arnie would sum it all up; make it all tie together.

“‘The bottom line’ is that being married to Candi far exceeded my wildest hopes for how rich, how fun, how amazing our lives could be together,” he said. The bottom line, Arnie said, was that Candi brought his life fullness and depth he would have experienced no other way. The bottom line was that Candi influenced everyone she knew with her grace, wit, intelligence and uncompromising example, both during all her years of health and, poignantly, during her determined struggle with cancer.

Arnie’s bottom line was clear to all. Candi’s life was a great joyful guidepost for all who knew her and learn of her. And we want to honor her, keeping her close in memory — allowing her example to motivate us for growth, experience, enjoyment and increased human dignity.

Candi’s had been the second Jewish funeral the “Starbucks crowd” attended last week. I’d never attended a Jewish funeral before. Now, in one week, I’d attended two.

A few years ago, we all started as casual friends. As the hundreds of mornings and months turned into years, we’ve become dependable and stalwart friends. There’s so much to be said for opening up and reaching out in friendship. Trying times are times for friends. It’s good to have a lot of them. Always.

Wednesday, Herman’s father-in-law, Joseph, was interred at the famous Hollywood Forever cemetery. While Candi passed relatively young, Joe lived a full life to age 90. Herman’s entire family adored Joe. As with Candi’s funeral, this too was full of fond stories, insight and purpose.

Joe saw and went through a lot in his long life. He and his siblings had been orphans. Joe was senior among them, and even at the young age of 11, he stepped up, took charge and rescued his younger siblings from dangerous and vulnerable settings that had entrapped them. He never stopped being his family’s leader.

But even strong leaders face personal challenges and must to be resolute to overcome life’s inevitable challenges. Joe’s granddaughter, Rebecca, read from a  handwritten letter she found that her grandfather had written to himself decades earlier: “I believe in God. God is active and is a strong force in my life. I am happy and filled with love. I love to dance and am a great dancer. I have many, many friends.” The letter went on, reaffirming Joe’s faith and strengths, giving him courage in the face of his adversities.

Joe faced many medical challenges in his later decades. But a great lesson is Joe didn’t suffer self-pity or make excuses. Instead, he kept looking up, reaffirming to himself how good he really had it and keeping his attitude and force of will in a positive frame. A great example to all. Remember, really remember all the good in your life. It’s humbling and motivating.

Well, Joe was to be interned in a wall crypt in a large mausoleum that appeared as huge as eternity itself. After his eulogy, we slowly walked behind the hearse to Joe’s particular structure. We then walked up three flights of stairs, and then one more to a huge room at the top of the structure.

The rabbi said prayers and dusted Joe’s coffin with soil from Jerusalem. The vault was opened and cemetery workers began sliding Joe’s casket into the vault.

But the casket became stuck and wouldn’t slide in all the way. Cemetery workers pushed and pressed, but the casket resisted all attempts.

Someone quipped that Joe didn’t want to go in the first place: “So this, we all should have expected!” Joe eventually relented, the workers finally prevailed and we recited closing prayers.

“There’s one last thing,” the rabbi exhorted. “Remember Joe. Be like Joe was. Live your life so that your rabbi has a fun and easy time writing your eulogy.” Point made.

Arnie spoke of the “the bottom line” of all this. Candi’s and Joe’s friends experienced towering examples of grace, poise, respect, determination, dignity, fun and love. We’ll remember them now. We’ll live their values and examples.

And in this, they will continue to bless us and, through them, we’ll bless others. That’s the great bottom line.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesday in The Signal.


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