Author: Zuniga, Henry

Happy Holidays

Six days until Christmas! Can you believe it? Every December, most of us will utter the same words, “Where did the year go?” or maybe, “Time sure flies, doesn‘t it?” There is no foundation for the second statement. Time is quantifiable and constant, with the exception of a second every few years. Yet, as we become “more mature” we seem caught up in a race with an internal clock that appears to run ever faster even as our bodies become slower day by day. Perspective. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Today millions of people will be scurrying about, shopping lists in hand, racing towards elusive parking spaces, jostling for places in long check-out lines. All will be looking for that perfect gift. What is a perfect gift? If you’re like me, there really are no gifts that excite me as they might have years ago. Luckily, I have everything that a man could ask for, and these days my wish list includes things like good health, quality time with my wife, family, and friends, and winning the lottery. You can’t be given good health, quality time is often something we have to make, not unwrap, and the lottery, well, “fugitaboutit!”

This attitude towards the holidays, and life, has given me a gift I could never have imagined before. I find myself happy with the wonderful presents I receive throughout the year. Most of these arrive unexpectedly and each one of them is priceless. I’d like to share a few of my 2009 favorites with you. Highest on my list are the days that Nancy and I spent at the FDF, camped side by side with Wayne and Betty Nolan. Our mornings were usually greeted with Wayne’s big beautiful smile, and often with a recap of the days and nights before. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that Wayne was always saying, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Even though he was very sick, he lived and loved every moment of his life and shared the joy with everyone. Thank-you, my friend, for the gift of friendship and joie d’ vivre that you gave so freely.

Next on my list is something very special. The night before we were to leave for a week in Grass Valley, Ed Encinas, a neighbor and good friend of ours, passed on. We offered our condolences to his family and told them that due to prior plans we would not be able to attend his funeral in person. I asked them to call me when they knew what time services would be so that we could take a moment to remember him and perhaps sing a couple of songs in his honor. Nancy made a copy of a photograph of him and on Wednesday morning we gathered around that picture and at the very time that he was being buried a few friends joined us for a few songs in memoriam. At 11 a.m. with my camcorder running, Rich and Debby Ferguson, Cliff Compton, Chef Mike, Dobro Jonathan, Nancy and myself, sang some beautiful gospel songs to help “Ed” on his journey to other pastures. I can’t begin to thank my friends for doing this. Another gift. As it turns out, “Ed” was John Karsemeyer’s father-in-law and the next day John came looking for us with a copy of the memorial pamphlet that was used for the service. It had the same picture that we had already blown up for our own use. When I had a chance to sit down and look at the video, I was surprised to find something very moving. The camera was on a tripod and once we started playing, there appeared to be some glare that was recorded. At first I thought that it was due to someone’s instrument reflecting in the lens, but there were no flashes in the lens itself. The glare was more like crystalline flashes of light and amazingly, as the song proceeded and part way into the next song, the lights slowly faded away. Just thinking about it gives me goose bumps. In my mind and heart I believe that Ed was dancing his way into another life. Talk about a magical gift.

Another fine example of how our lives are touched by bluegrass occurred very recently. The news of Rick Hendricks’ illness took everyone by surprise. Not surprising was the tribute show that was organized very quickly for him. Hundreds gathered for this moving event only to find out about midway through the show that a call was received telling of his passing. It was estimated that Rick “went” during the playing of “I’ll Fly Away!” More chills and another wonderful gift!

Most recently we were invited to a holiday gathering at the Nolan family compound. It was wonderful to be there and the music was amazing. I was surprised when I was asked to sing a couple of Wayne’s signature songs. To me this was an amazing gift. I was also happy to have met Karen Butler, the daughter of the late Lloyd and Doris Butler. Their passing within a few weeks of each other was touching and cosmically appropriate. As you may know, Lloyd bequeathed his D-35 Martin to Cliff Compton. It was perfect, it was magic, and being there was another wonderful gift for me.

And so it is with a happy heart that I offer this advice to you. Take time to live, laugh, and love, and I hope you find the great gifts that life puts right before all of us. They’re all around.
Posted:  12/19/2009

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