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  • Today I said goodbye, kept a promise and stumbled upon a delightful surprise. The whole day had an electrical, otherworldly feel. I swear I felt a birdhouse in my soul.

    My uncle Jim, the Irish one (the Italian one is my mom's brother), was cremated today after a beautiful memorial service. My cousin Deb is an only child, despite all attempts by my aunt and uncle to have a big family, Deb was IT for many years. I never tire of telling the story of my "only child cousin with the four children." You see, she managed to find someone, Greg, to help fulfill her destiny, to create the big family she and her parents always wanted. My uncle Jim was an amazing, funny, get-on-the-floor-and-play kind of Poppy, and relished in the hustle and bustle and craziness inherent to being with 4 children born in an 8 year period. He loved his brood, and always pitched in for any job for which he was needed.

    Just five years ago, as I was walking out of my father's funeral, my uncle came up to me and put his arm around me and said of my eulogy, "Amos, you did a great job. I'd like you to do that at my funeral, if you would." Always one to joke with me, I wasn't sure he was serious, but I assured him that if he left this mortal coil before I did, I would. Well, when I visited him the day before he died, I mentioned to my aunt my promise, and if I was needed I would help any way she or Debbie wanted, including saying a few words if they would like.

    But really, I was hoping to help Debbie finds the words that would make the day memorable to her, to help her tell the mourners what he meant to her. I was secretly hoping I would not be needed to say my own words, because in his later years I saw my uncle far too infrequently, either when someone was sick or at Christmastime, when my family made our way to Deb and Greg's Christmas Tree Farm where we traveled an hour to pick our tree and have hot chocolate and catch up with the family. I was afraid my words would not have the ring of sincerity, that instead it would sound like too little too late.

    So the night before the funeral I seized upon my opportunity to bow out when Deb said that they hadn't spoken to the priest yet and maybe I should say something at the funeral home instead. I declined by saying I wasn't prepared and that I was planning to ask her and her mom some clarification questions and write my eulogy after the wake, and said I was happy to help her if she couldn't say what she wanted.

    But just prior to the funeral, the next morning, the priest showed up at the funeral home to go over the order of events, when I came over to join in the discussion. I hadn't asked my questions the night before, and I hadn't written my eulogy and my guard was completely down. He asked if she was planning to say some words and she said no, and pointed to me, completely forgetting our prior conversation. I hadn't written what I wanted to say, but I offered to help her write a few words so that she could speak about her dad from her heart, and the priest thought that was the best. He spoke to us about readings, and I told her i'd be happy to read one of them.

    So when she was called up to say a few words, I mouthed "are you okay?" and she waved me up. I was her backup, and that I knew I could do. Of course, she fell apart before anything came out of her mouth, so I gave her a bit of an introduction. Then she did beautifully, until she was breaking up badly at the end, so with a bit of inspiration that I'm sure came from Jimmy, I talked about his 52 year marriage, the two of them meeting when they were 13 and 15, and marrying at 19 and 21, nearly 60 years together. I spoke about his adoration for his grandchildren, all of them watching me with wide eyes from the first and second rows. I spoke about his humor and his love. All without a script. It came naturally. So without trying, I kept my promise.

    When I got home from the repast, Spencer, my 6th grader, had beat me home. We sat together and did homework, and while I was looking through an atlas, I started singing "Istanbul (not Constantinople)" by They Might Be Giants. Spencer asked me if I was making up songs out of the atlas. So I had to show him that song, and couldn't help sharing "Birdhouse in Your Soul" as well. A happy song about a nightlight, it has a cheery, upbeat, anything-is-possible feel. It lightened my heart. It made me want to get out in the woods.

    As I was now dropping off Spencer at soccer practice across from the entrance to the 2200 acre woods where I like to explore, I grabbed the dog for a walk.

    I actually felt calm and peaceful and happy to be in my favorite place. I often run, or walk as fast as I can, a three mile loop i've traversed about a hundred times. Today my pace was sweat inducing, but not maniacal. And I stumbled upon something I thought was only a rumor. I found two very different tiny whimsical doors attached to the trunks of two different trees on a quiet meandering path. To me, they look like the birdhouse in my soul. But they were more like chipmunk doors. They delighted me. One was a tiny blue wood door with a little gold handle and a paper straw you would find in pina colada. The other was a rugged wood door with a glass bead embedded in the door meant to be a peephole, with a rope door handle and metal hinges. I felt my heart jumping up and down with excitement. I continued on my path hoping to find more. I came across a couple with a dog, and had to tell them about the doors, that I had heard about them on a facebook page about the reservation, but I had never seen any. Oh, the Fairie Doors! They had seen lots of them, they said, and they seem to be sprouting up everywhere. That it originally must've been one artist, and now others are continuing the tradition. And they are always on the smallest, least used paths. I asked them if they could tell me specifically where I could find another in that vicinity, but they couldn't direct me. I spent the rest of the walk looking for more, but that was all found. But on an already inspired day, that was perfect.
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