It is 4:00 am in the morning. I am wide awake. My husband and I traveled to California to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday. We have an early flight back to our three children, two dogs and suburban house in Virginia in two hours. At this very moment, I am sitting on a small comfy couch in a cottage that used to be the home of a man named Charlie, the former caretaker of Mission Ranch. Walking into his cottage was surreal, as if I had stepped back in time, and I can’t help but think that he would smile at the excitement I felt at just being in his former home. It felt personal. Being here made me feel like I am now woven into the fabric of the ranch’s history. These past two days have caused me to reflect on how experiences truly make life worth living.
My heart has been affected by my stay here.
The party was a surprise. Her husband picked us up from the airport and took us to the ranch. The land reminded me of Sweden in that it was untouched, frozen in time, and for me, a place where my soul could breathe. Sheep grazed in the valley, flowers and ivy brightened the various shutters and windows. A gentle fog covered the green hills. This was no ordinary place. I will never forget my brief stay.
We came in on a Tuesday and we are leaving on a Thursday. In this short time we have been to Pebble Beach, drove the coast of Carmel, had a luxurious dinner at Casanova, hiked amongst Redwoods and spent the night with a star. That star was not the owner of Mission Ranch although I and others were affected by his attendance, that star was our dear friend Lena.
It was expensive to fly here. Some would say extravagant or wasteful because it was a short trip. They would be wrong. When you work hard in life, it means nothing unless you can make a difference or share in life’s pivotal moments. Going to a resort or spending money on material things doesn’t giving me joy. Seeing happiness in Lena’s eyes and feeling the love that surrounds her, love so deserved and meaningful. This is joy. This is what makes life worth living.
Her story is not mine to tell. Suffice to say she is a woman I admire. She is a woman that has a special kindness and sparkle in her eyes. Lena lives every day with determination and gives so much to those around her. She has married a man with the same spark, a man who makes you laugh. Her children are full of laughter and kindness, two of her greatest achievements and sources of pride. Her daughter danced the night away and her son sang “Fly Me to the Moon” in a performance that brought smiles to each guest’s face.
And we feel so fortunate to have been part of her special day. My husband and I leave Mission Ranch mesmerized and impressed with the life the owner has lived, and our hearts leave with gratitude for his generosity and the hospitality of his staff (Sue…thank you so very much). We will tuck away the precious memories of love and laughter with the people we love and the new friends we have made.
Happy Birthday Lena. Thank you for the lesson you have given all of us, to live and love every single day with everything you have in your heart, mind, body and soul. You are a shining star!