I kicked piles of sand onto the fire to extinguish the last embers. The park ranger was being nice about it, but he let us know it was time to call it a night. My friend Ari and I had just spent the past few hours relaxing around a small beach bonfire on the Northern California Coast. As we walked back to my truck our stomachs began to grumble. We’d spent plenty of time enjoying wine, laughs, and good company, so food had been the last thing on our minds. I suddenly remembered this quaint little restaurant I’d been dying to visit right at the entrance of Muir Beach.
As we approached what seemed to be someone’s beautiful estate we realized this was the place I’d been searching for, The Pelican Inn. Covered in rustic wood and with a fireplace burning in the backdrop, I immediately fell in love with its atmosphere upon entering. The main restaurant had already been closed for the evening, so we were asked to take a seat next to the bar. As we ordered a round of drinks I couldn’t help noticing a group of about 15 people sitting across the room. Their overall chatter and presence emitted such a positive energy that it was totally contagious.
After Ari and I speculated about who they were and what their story was I decided to go make friends. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they weren’t a group of old high school buddies (that was our guess), but rather a group of Buddhists who had come from a local monastery to enjoy some food and drink. They had come from all walks of life, different countries, backgrounds, and life situations, yet had found a family in each other. We sparked conversation and I ordered their table a few pitchers of beer, which seemed to act as an admissions ticket for us to join the group’s conversation.
By this point in the night the restaurant was totally shut down, but the lone bartender told us she enjoyed our company and allowed us to stay a while longer. As we sat there huddled around a large table deep in conversations, one of the members began to speak about her appreciation, experiences, and gratitude for the other member, Jen, who had been sitting beside her at the time. She went on for a few minutes, at which point another member jumped in to share his appreciation for Jen. This went on for a little while longer with different members chiming in to speak. There were smiles, laughter, and tears, but what I remember most was an unbelievable sparkle in Jen’s eyes. This continued for the next 2 hours as we went around the table picking one person and then speaking accordingly. Even Ari and I both gave and received gratitude, appreciation, and kind words despite the fact that these people were total strangers just a few hours earlier. It had an amazing impact on us both and I witnessed it having an amazing impact on all involved at the table that night.
It struck me before we departed that what we had done was typically what would happen at a funeral. Loved ones gathered around sharing stories, love, and gratitude for the recently deceased. But this was different, the person being spoken about was alive, sitting there and taking it all in.
If you can find any good in someone’s death, it’s the celebration of their life. The overwhelming impact that one person has made on all the people they’ve had the opportunity to touch throughout the years. The unfortunate reality is, more often than not, all the love for that person isn’t shared until they’ve left us. Why is that? It seems like an easy enough fix. Be honest, be open, and tell your loved ones how you really feel, so you can make an even bigger difference in their lives just like they made a difference in yours. It will be worth it I promise.