Melina said it correctly, “This is a bittersweet day.” Indeed it was, for its curious boundaries metered funeral flowers, eulogies, and graveside committal words. Flowing tears and grievous expression held hands with mirth and laughing aloud.

Two of our sons, their wives, and one grandson, along with Jerry and me, had attended the funeral of our dear friend, Rev. Paul Walker. It was a beautiful service, where loving honor was paid to this great man of God. Jerry was honored by being asked to speak during the graveside service.


Jerry’s birthday had been the day before. He had already celebrated with birthday dinners and breakfasts, a myriad of phone calls from family and friends, and by opening packages received in person, and in the mail. These particular youngsters, though, had not seen him on his special day, although they had communicated by mail and by telephone calls.

“Dad,” said Andrew at the conclusion of the services. “Let’s go eat somewhere. Celebrate your birthday a bit more.”

No one knew a close-by place to eat, so Andrew and Shauna consulted maps and recommendations on their phone, and we all pulled up in front of Billy Qs in Palm Desert. It was a tiny pizza place, with not a table to seat us all, except for one with high stools, so we scurried around, and helped Jerry get seated up there. After we had received the drinks we had ordered, Andrew leaned in, and said, “There’s a really nice place next door. Want to pay for our drinks and go there?”

“No.” I said, “Let’s don’t do that.”

All agreed, and what a dynamite decision we made. The food is outstanding, and the people are fantastic. The female partner of the man/wife owners of the little place was our waitress . . .and she is a hoot.

My husband has a line he loves to use in restaurants–one which causes the rest of us to smile wanly, and take on an apologetic look. Sometimes we tuck our heads. “Do you take food stamps?” he asked Darnelle.

She missed not a beat. “Yes we do. However, you need to provide three forms of ID.” Wide-eyed, Jerry was speechless. The rest of us were howling.

The upward momentum never faltered during that fine hour. When Darnelle learned this was a birthday celebration of sorts, she went next door to Cold Stone, bought an ice cream cake, and set it at the end of our table. She scurried up a make-shift candle, and we sang. Before we left this charming place, Darnelle was in the middle of all of us, and we were hugging and promising to see each other again.

For part of the summer, she and her husband take an RV to Big Bear Lake, which is about 20 miles from where Jerry and I live. “We take a portable pizza oven there, and cook up pizzas for everyone in the RV park.” She wrote her phone number on the back of a card. “Call me. We also take a boat there. Love to take you out on it.”

I love living.