Lucy Jensen

The perfect day was on order for the chosen celebration of life of our very own valley girl. Blissful sunlight through the oaks on River Road was on the menu, as was some delightful company. I arrived on top of some very ripe vines and was greeted by the most nostalgic music I can ever remember hearing. The gorgeous song of the fiddle sang through to the very essence of my memory, and I found myself becoming a little teary. A quick splash of local valley wine and I perked up.

I went to look at all the lovely photos of a long life well-lived and I felt once again invigorated by all the love in the air. Bless you, Paula. You were there, weren’t you, sitting above the tables in the trees, overlooking all your very favorite people in the whole world, laughing along with us, and enjoying delicious food and fellowship. I’m sure I heard that wholesome chuckle of yours up in the sunlight with the birds, bees and butterflies.

I was truly honored to be at your very special party. In the center of each table boasted one of your lovely china teacups and saucers. When I first came to tea at your house, I showed you how to make proper English tea, remember? You showed me your expansive collection of cups and saucers and I was, truthfully, in awe.

We enjoyed a life-enhancing teatime on more than one occasion at your home; you and I are partaking properly of the Yorkshire brew — milk in the cup first, thank you very much — and your husband not following the rules. Like at all. I remember so clearly how you would roll your eyes at him, and we would just carry on. You’d tell me there was probably no fixing him at this stage in your marriage. He would ask us what we were talking about, and we would laugh. So hard.

At the celebration of your marvelous life, I was so fortunate to be able to sit with one of your very oldest friends. I am going to call him Sir Jack de Mission because I think he’s earned the title. My goodness, what a great life he has led, same as you. He’s nearly 100 years old — give or take a few days here and there — and he is still a very charming and debonair Swiss Italian who personally informed me — over copious slices of cheese with wine — that he still had a few good years ahead of him.

When I realized that his wife was at the table and she wasn’t next to him, I offered to switch places with her. “Oh no,” he said. “I see her all the time.” “That’s right,” she chimed in from the other side of the table. “He always likes to sit next to the young ladies.” Then he hit me again with another of his very dashing smiles.

And what a superb afternoon we all shared in your presence, Paula. Your wonderful husband watched over all your celebrations and smiled beatifically at all of it. Your daughters hosted the most superb salute to your beautiful life, as did your cousins and all your people.

“I always talk to my ancestors when I step outside of a morning,” said one of them to me across the most yummy celebration lunch of tri-tip, salad, beans and more — thank you, Luigi’s. “I am so very grateful to them for my life and home.” This seemed to be a theme among the gatherers. There were many people present who were beautifully grateful and satisfied with their lives. I liked that. It was something you don’t hear too often.

Under the oaks we found a lot to be grateful for. Firstly, to our beautiful Paula and this wonderful celebration of her life that we got to enjoy in one of the most stunning places on earth. Next, we had to be so thankful for the delicious food that was served to us. Then the weather — thank you, such a precious climate for the day. It was not too hot or cold that day and the valley breeze that whispered through the oaks and the vines such a priceless gift for all gathered under her benevolent shield. And then the gathering itself. Who would have guessed that little old me, who is related to no one and was not born, bred or raised in that fabulous valley so many call home, would be invited to bear witness to such a personal and loving affair? I was honored beyond honor.

I left the gathering hoping that I would see many of those lovely souls again and break some bread with them again — or, at least some wine and cheese. As Sir Jack duly noted, “I could eat cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s the best food ever.” And he is so right about that. He told me that he got so emotional these days and I told him that was so refreshing to witness. Too many people hold their emotions in and that was not healthy.

I left everyone feeling rather emotional myself, but so overbrimming with gratitude and love. We did our valley girl proud; she would have so loved her party and all who attended. Make sure you show up and be present at the present. Passings are inevitable. Love endures.

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


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