Sunday, November 3, 2013

In My Life

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends
I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living

In my life I've loved them all
- from "In My Life" by The Beatles on Rubber Soul

My friend Alan Mearns is one of those rare musicians who transforms everydayness into art. His original work is otherworldly and so achingly beautiful, I can't listen to it without shedding a tear or two. And his surprising arrangements of well-known ballads add remarkable freshness to old favorites.
His latest effort is an arrangement of a Beatles classic. Juxtaposed with shots of him strumming his guitar are flashes of his beautiful wife and adorable children. His version of "In My Life" haunts me.

Released shortly before this All Saints Sunday, Alan's "In My Life" functions almost as a prayer for our beloved saints - here and gone.

Because my local church commemorates All Saints a week early, I've enjoyed an extended opportunity to intentionally meditate on the saints in my life. 

I often find myself thinking about or talking to saints long gone. Perhaps it is my hidden innate moroseness. More likely, it is my sense of belonging to an unending community of saints.

Though, I choose to not only honor the dead but celebrate the living saints.

This Friday - All Saints Day - began with a quick interchange with one of those dear souls. Mark Andrews is my pastor and a true kindred spirit. His life is marked by living out the admonition I hold up as my ideal: do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.

Because we both work on Sundays, he and I usually enjoy Sabbath on Friday (though he has cultivated a much more successful Sabbath practice). I popped by to deliver a few of his favorite cookies, and in the two minutes we shared on his front stoop, my heart was ministered to with such easy grace, I couldn't help but grin as I drove away.

He inquired after a family member awaiting test results. He asked how I was feeling as I continue to deal with significant pain. He told me, in a manner resembling that of my own dear parents', to get some rest. The earnestness and love I constantly receive from both he and his wife Denise overwhelm me.

I suppose it's not hard to imagine a man a saint when he preaches about love and grace as a vocation. 

But my concept of sainthood reaches beyond those men or women of the cloth, past those who profess a faith similar to my own. Many people I consider saints are hard-pressed to perceive themselves in such a light. But I find tremendous strength in the warmth of friends who may self-identify as either Agnostic, Atheist, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, or Pagan. 

It's been said that a saint simply helps others become the best versions of themselves. Admittedly, I believe there's a bit more to it than that, but it's a good place to start as we seek to truly see and value all the diverse saints already present in our lives.

Suffering early loss seems to have equipped me to appreciate the people placed in my life - the imperfect love they offer and the fractured beauty that is present in all of us.

When I met Tom Thielemann nine years ago, I immediately recognized a radiance that comes from giving of oneself. We met during the spring my dear friend was dying of esophageal cancer. In the years since, he - along with his wife and son - have embraced me as family.
Tom trick-or-treating on Halloween
On Halloween, they invited me to join them for trick-or-treating. The night was full of laughter and deep conversation. After five hours flew by, I left with a full heart.

Tom and Lynda Lea are both incredible artists. Like many creative types, Tom is fully aware of his deficits. He is eager to see and praise the goodness in others while remaining skeptical of any virtue he might possess. Because Lynda Lea is so faithful and generous, I think Tom sees himself falling short of that standard in his life. But just like his wife, he allows me the freedom to be myself. And just as important, he pushes me to dream outlandish dreams and offers his support as I pursue them. It is my prayer that he recognizes his own brilliance along the way.

Saints abound if we only have eyes to see. I live with one. Edgar Nucamendi and I moved into a small duplex as acquaintances two years ago. In that time, he has become one of the most important people in my life. Like Mark and Denise, Tom and Lynda Lea, Edgar shines.

Just today, after a whirlwind week, he and I shared a lazy afternoon painting and singing together.
Edgar laughing and painting
When I need a smile or hug or word of affirmation, Edgar knows and gives from his heart. He and I can spend hours talking on a Saturday morning and then go days without seeing much of one another. All the while, I know that I am loved. I know that Edgar wants the best for me.

I am inundated with saints. A day doesn't pass without little reminders that I am surrounded by loving, supportive people. My parents call and text. A friend finds a great deal on art supplies and shares the wealth. I'm invited to a bonfire. I receive a handwritten note in the mail. I am greeted with understanding when medical or family emergencies arrive. An old pal stops by work with kids in tow just to say she was thinking of me. An uncle and favorite hairstylist conspire to treat me to a new look. Far-flung family members and distant friends catch up on Facebook. A three-year-old squeals in delight as he sees me walk through his front door. A seven-year-old invites me to live in his dream house with him, his family, and best friend. Dreams are shared in the middle of a gallery.

May we all recognize those sainted people in our lives before they're gone. May we live lives worthy of them. I want to be able to say that in my life, I've loved them all.

To learn more about Alan, visit
To read Mark's insights, visit
To see Tom and Lynda Lea's work, visit
To learn about Edgar's coffee shop, visit