Celebrating Life Haven Style

I am on my way to Oakland for our annual two days with my Table Group colleagues.  I enjoy these days; however, this time I am coming off an intense weekend of celebrating the birthdays of two of my mentors and the passing of a very dear friend.  It seems appropriate to write this blog as a make my way from Gabriola to Oakland via Vancouver and Seattle.  My eyes are tired from the tears that flowed today as many old and new friends gathered in the lodge and later in Phoenix to say goodbye to Dianne.  My heart is full from Saturday’s birthday celebration of Ben Wong (80) and Maria Gomori (90).  Ben is the man behind The Haven and pretty much the sole example about everything I have learned about being human.  Maria, (90), is a force of nature who’s life spans everything from wild escapes from death marches in Hungary to career changes that include being a high-level Hungarian political economist, to being a human psychologist in Winnipeg, and a world-traveling facilitator who still runs workshops from early morning to late evening.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make the birthday celebrations.  The dates were tricky, and I was already booked before and after.  However, when Dianne died and the news spread that there was going to be a ceremony for her on the weekend, I knew I had to come.

What was most amazing was the people who gathered.  Many were faces from much earlier in my life.  People who I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years, all returning because one of these three masters had so deeply touched or transformed their lives that they wanted to come and celebrate.

The birthdays were special because on the stage sat 170 years of experience.  Jock in his purposeful, strategic way had planned an interview of the pair.  He had a vision and with commitment and drama and took us with him. However, I believe in the end, the masters steered us off in other directions: Ben, with his wonderful wit and provocative wisdom, and Maria, with her own agenda to make sure this was really about Ben (and Jock) and just how they had saved her life so many times.  I am not sure if things went as Jock imagined, but I believe what he intended was delivered.  We all were captured by the stories and the deeper messages about the importance of freedom, integrity and in the end, human connection.

The evening was musical, poetic and spanned between the East and the West.  It was Haven at its finest.

Sunday bought a different flavor to the day. This was a gathering to celebrate not a birthday, but a passing, though this time not quite choreographed, planned and directed. But once we gathered and Dianne’s family joined her extended family of friends, those who agreed to guide the flow of feelings, demonstrated the grace of The Haven in yet another way. Much like a Come Alive, there was just enough structure and thought to bring the day to life.  The circle was powerful and a wonderful way for each of us to speak and let our loving of Dianne flow through songs, stories, tears, poems, laughter and hugs.  Dianne would have loved it!

I didn’t know how important it was for me personally until a young man commented at the tightness in my shoulders.  He noticed that my shoulders were slowly rising towards my ears and was willing to check out his story with me. He thought something was wrong.  I knew in that moment I was doing what I can do so well, shutting down the feelings and detaching from my heart.  His comments were very early in the day and left me with plenty of time to make a different choice.  I took a breath because I knew wanted to feel.

Now, sitting on the plane, my eyes are quite tired from the many tears I let flow. I am quite full from the weekend and not sure how I will be able to transition to tomorrow’s focus.  Right now though, I am full and grateful once again for The Haven, my friends, my family, and all that I learn when I am willing to show up, open my heart, breath and trust.