With thanks to Walt Whitman
With cake and ice cream, prayers and songs, poems and dances,
With eulogies, stories, and photos,
We celebrate our lives, our past, and our future.
With hummingbirds sipping from the salvia, woodpeckers marking their territory, even tapping the metal cover on the street lamp, mockingbirds chasing away larger birds, chasing hawks and owls from their nests, with cardinals and jays both blue and green,
With the scent of skunks caring for the pups, the ripening tomatoes in cages, yellow blooms of lantana and wildflowers lining the roads, wild sunflowers, Blackfoot daisies, Indian blankets, pink Evening primroses, sprinkles of yellow and white and pink wildflowers,
We celebrate summer beginning.
With books returned to classrooms, dorms cleaned, parents taking trash to dumpsters, ceremonies calling out the names and diplomas given, scholarships awarded,
With a circle of graduates on their knees in final pray, standing, tossing mortarboards into the air, sending academic gowns to the cleaners,
With a jet welded to a stand, other jets parked while still others fly in formation writing calligraphy with their trails,
With flags of many nations flying on poles around a fountain, with English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean spoken in hellos and goodbyes, thank yous, congratulations, and best wishes,
With soldiers home from abroad, uniforms packed away or uniforms worn, some with pride and some not,
With picnic baskets and cook outs by the pool, steaks and hot dogs,
With babies and white haired ladies, skinny men and those with pot bellies, young women with platform shoes and wide smiles, women with arms that wave even when they stop, teenagers so sure they have been sold a bill of goods and they just want to get away and have some fun,
With white tombstones carved with six pointed stars, crosses or crescent moons,
With music and slide shows, scrap books, photo albums, biographies, lots of stories, true and embellished, and old movies,
We celebrate men and women who have put family and country before self.
With those who marched that others could ride the bus and go to school and sit downstairs at the movie theater, who stood even when tear gas was thrown and clubs beat them down, who returned even after being locked away in prison for asking for justice and equality, to ask again for justice,
We celebrate those who put God before family, country, and self.
With the jackhammer and the cement mixer,
With the computer, pen, and paper, with the baton, chalk, smart boards and the video games, baseballs, footballs, and tennis rackets, cards, and dominoes,
With the clay and metal, ink and paint, fabric sewn into clothes and quilts,
With those sitting in bird blinds waiting with cameras and those walking the ground throwing out seed balls or burning the cedar,
With the planning of roads and bridges, dams, and circuit boards, smart phones and laptops,
We celebrate work and play, art and sport, nature and engineering.
With friends and family, we sit on wooden benches, singing hymns we have sung a million times before and songs that are new with strange rhythms, say prayers we know by heart, and read new prayers, listen to scripture and how to live it out,
We celebrate our faith in houses of worship, thankful to worship freely.
With “Peace be with you,” and “also with you,”
With “love your neighbor as yourself,”
With “the love of God that passes all human understanding,”
We celebrate love: loving God, loving each other, loving the world.
With an infant’s giggle, a grinning toddler pulling loose of her father’s hand to dance with the song at the graduation ceremony,
With the limping gait of an ankle too many times broken, a deep rumbling laugh, the sigh of not being understood, the tears of loss and the pain of grief at losing one who was close to our heart,
With courage and discipline,
We celebrate life.