This has been a lesson in the making for the past six years. In 2012 I was fortunate to be invited to an event that became a phenomenon. Not because it was a destination trip, or that we experienced star treatment at all-inclusive resorts. None of the fancy additions made this experience remarkable. They were sexy but didn’t make this a must-attend event. Nope.
Genuine, True, Authentic Love & Respect.
The genuine, true love for one woman, Sandra, brought us all together. The passion for living a life of genuine, authentic moments formulated a bond through a group of people who connected beyond a simple “vacation.”
Our love for Sandra allowed, and continues to allow, us all to see her fight, win, and survive the battle against cancer. Through this battle, she was inspired to create the phenomenon: The Celebration of Life. Through this, I have learned that regardless if it’s family, work, and/or friends, there should be time for YOU. Time for you to pull back from the madness and reconnect to love, being loved, and being carefree.
We celebrated survival, new marriages, anniversaries, birthdays, families, friendships, happiness, and life.
From laughter, we grew. From joy, we grew. From brief sadness, we grew. From memories, we grew to build new amazing memories. Connecting with new faces and reconnecting with old friends, the Celebration of Life quickly became more than thirty people simply coming together to be in a particular location by happenstance.
It became about being there to celebrate the life of Sandra who has touched so many beyond her own imagination. No matter what she does Sandra gives every ounce of her energy and self when most people would have tapped out. Regardless of how hectic her life gets, Sandra makes time for everyone and welcomes you like family. She carries an infectious laugh, a joyous spirit, a passion for life and all it has to offer. Sandra has proven to be one of the rare individuals who lives through her actions. No fluff.
The Celebration of Life evolved into celebrating all the amazing opportunities life has to offer. For a few days, it was about focusing on all the good the world and universe has and continues to give us all.
Any tears shed were filled with the overwhelming feelings of gratefulness and love. The love of good people, the love of having the ability and sense to know when and how to take time away from the hustle and bustle to truly be humble and happy.
We gathered during Hurricane Matthew and some of our people were delayed in various states because of the aftermath. Sandra was in constant communication with them, tracking updates on the news, and brokering revised hotel accommodations and deals for those who were delayed. Amazing!
Sandra went above and beyond to ensure that everyone felt welcomed and were recognized for being a part of the celebration. Although we were gathered to celebrate our love for Sandra and her love for life, she greeted everyone with specially made gift bags and arranged for various excursions for those who were interested.
We also found out that she planned a birthday surprise for her best friend, Gail, and our other friend Will. She set up a scenic location in one of the restaurants and had a large birthday cake delivered to her room for an after-dinner party. The attention to detail was extraordinary and both celebrants were moved beyond words.
Since the first Celebration of Life, I became determined not to allow other people’s drama and crap to become my burden. Someone told me “we all make time for what we value,” as though I didn’t know this already.
Fortunately, I not only know this but now live by this.
Since 2014 I stopped allowing other people’s procrastinations and self-created emergencies to become my issue. I stopped allowing other people’s fuckery to become my concern.
We are all on this planet for a reason. Be it to represent how a good human behaves or to be an example of what NOT to do; everyone serves a purpose.
The Celebration of Life helped me learn that stepping back from demanding, needy and draining friends, family, and work environments saves you from internal destruction, especially when you are burdened with the guilt of performing above optimal standards to make up for weak links in various chains.
No one can be everything for everyone, but too many of us suffer the consequences while those who suck us dry until their needs are met and heart’s content walk away and leave us emotionally, mentally, and perhaps physically dead.
2016 was my year of confirmation.
All that I already believed in and how I wanted to live and the type of people I wanted to surround myself with was confirmed. I returned from the Celebration of Life emotionally, physically, and mentally rejuvenated.
Back on my grind, I’ve been replenished by genuine love and unwavering support. Reliving the meaning of true love from every angle was what this celebration was all about.
Consider all that has happened to you in your own life so far. Consider how you have allowed it to help mold who you are. Praise or blame should always include you, as you are partly responsible for how life and its twists and turns leave you at the end of any day.
Bitter. Resentful. Happy. Resilient. It’s ultimately your choice.
I’m grateful for my lifelines; my Village includes such amazing people like my parents, GTG, and Team Celebration of Life!
Words can never express how vital it has been to be part of the Celebration of Life these past years. I owe the amazing opportunity to witness the undeniable loving radiance that Sandra emits onto all that are fortunate to know her. She is love, she is brilliance, she is a Celebration of life.
photos courtesy of: J. Calayag & Peake Portraits