The Lance celebration..recap and videos

I wanted to share a recap of Lance’s memorial…many of you were there and some were unable to come. It was hands down one of the most beautiful fall days we’ve had. It was truly a magical day. I am sure the 32 degree snowy/rainy weather the day before helped make it seem that much more glorious but I like to think Lance took part in creating the incredible vibe that ensued. It was a Lance day for sure. He’s favorite weather…a crisp fall day, not a single cloud in the blue blue sky.

I am posting 2 videos (see below): The first is one I made to show a glimpse of Lance’s life. Believe it or not, I edited 90 pictures out of it. It was not easy because almost every picture I have of Lance I either love or have special memories of or know the story behind them but I tried my hardest to keep it to the best of the best.

The second video was created by Kirsten Boyer who is an awesome local photographer who documented the whole day and created a video out of her photographs. I have had major troubles getting the quality of her video downloaded so this video does not do her work justice. I know the beginning actually looks like I am marrying my friend Roxanna but for those of you who don’t know by now, Roxanna was an integral part in the end of Lance’s life, his death and the organizing of this event.

First I will mention some highlights (all of which are in the video)…

My kids, Zach and Amélie participating in a very special Native American ceremony in front of a bonfire led by our friend Pete who is from the Diné (Navajo) tribe. I thought to myself, I might not be able to get through this next hour because just watching my kids, my emotions ran the gamut of love to sadness for my sweet children.

The speeches were all incredible and some even laugh out loud hilarious representing different sides of Lance from the hard worker, to the spiritual seeker, to the endless giver and helper, to the awesome father, husband, son, friend, and unique individual he was.

Parts of an incredible prayer that my friend Tiphaine wrote and shared is scattered throughout the video below. I may have to post this whole prayer as it is so beautiful and captures so much of who Lance was and what he means to us now. I am incredibly grateful for this prayer. I can hardly fathom how Tiphaine wrote this but it blew me away as I know it did for every person there.

Another highlight for me was Amélie playing the piano and singing “Let it Be” (with her super talented teacher Kate Jaworski).  I thought I would cry but I was just so proud of my little girl.

The thing that did reduce me to a puddle of tears and which I think took many by surprise was at the end of the ceremony when two bagpipers came out and played “Amazing Grace.” We had moved into the barn to watch Lance’s video and the acoustics inside the barn were incredible. Thank you Roxanna for that extremely special and memorable touch.
So here are the videos
Lance Tribute:
http://vimeo.com/51303937

Lance’s tribe:

Thank you for all of you who helped make this happen: to all my friends, to the natural foods community and Planet Bluegrass who all contributed to this celebration in a big way. It was very representative of how our community has been with my family all along. Thank you. I am deeply grateful.

Lastly, I wanted to share Kirsten Boyer (the photographer’s) website. Thank you Kirsten. http://kirstenboyerphotography.blogspot.com/

Love,
Nancy

Tears and rainbows

When I was pregnant with Zach, I cried a lot. At first, Lance thought it was cute. He said, “I’m glad you’re human” because he hadn’t seen me cry much before. When I was pregnant the second time around, he was over it. In fact, I remember crying on a plane at a really bad movie (so bad I can’t even admit it) and he thought I was nuts. I wonder what he would think now? Tears are a normal part of my days. It makes me think of Telluride or Kauai (two of our favorite places in the world). One minute it’s a beautiful day, the next it’s pouring rain and then the clouds part and it’s blue sky again and if you’re lucky, a beautiful rainbow appears. I feel like this every day.

I guess this is my grief process. I keep wondering about those five stages…to me grief is disbelief. Is that the same as denial? I often think, “I can’t believe I am not going to see you again Lance” and then I get a sign that maybe that’s not entirely true. His spirit is everywhere and it keeps appearing…but I’m going to save that for another post.

Those other stages…anger? Is that going to happen? I hope not. I don’t like that emotion. Yearning? Yes. I yearn for Lance daily. I yearn for the sound of his tools in the garage, the messes he would make, his car coming home up the alley, interrupting me to tell me some fascinating fact from one of his books. I yearn talking to him, laughing with him, hugging him, spooning him, taking unromantic steam showers while talking politics, even making him endless juices. I yearn hearing the words, “I love you Nan.” I yearn for the father of our children. I yearn countless things about him.

Even the 5th stage…letting go. That part is hard to imagine. I realize I am no where near that stage. I am afraid of moving on, even if that means I will suffer less. Moving on without my Lance? There was so many things I loved about us…even our names…Lance and Nance. I know that sounds silly but it’s true.

My friend who is going through hospice training told me that often people expect the bereaved to be “moving on” in 6 months? I was shocked. I can tell you now…that isn’t happening here…6 months?! It took me a lot longer to get over my first love when I was a teenager.

A friend of Lance’s wrote me something beautiful…some wise words from a Native American. He said, tears are a healthy and good part of death. Water brings us into the world and helps us leave the world. The mother’s water breaks when we are born and that helps bring us into the world, and tears are the water that helps our journey out of the world.

I guess I am helping Lance along…I hope he isn’t getting tired of my tears.

Love,
Nancy

You are invited…RSVP!

I am really looking forward to seeing many of you at Lance’s celebration. It’s kind of my full time job right now…planning it that is. I remember the day (like it was yesterday) when I took this picture on one of our favorite hikes in Telluride. I’ve been staring at this picture so much I have actually caught myself saying, “Lance can you just be super human and jump out of the picture now?” I’m still waiting…

We have a lot of beautiful and special things planned for what I hope to be a memorable tribute of a man so many loved and admired. Lance and I talked about his memorial once (way in the beginning….not believing it would be his reality so soon) and he wondered who would be there, what people would say, and then he said, “this is really silly, this is all my ego” and we laughed. Well, being a producer in a previous life, and not wanting to disappoint him for a second, I am wanting to make this a special and unforgettable celebration. As I said earlier, I have no doubts his spirit will be there among us.

Details:

It’s really important (essential actually) to RSVP. Even if you have verbally told me or emailed Roxanna. We went round and round on the best way to do this because I don’t have many people’s emails but finally settled on the blog. So please RSVP in the comment section of this blog (even you shy types) by September 21st. It can be a simple reply of “I’ll be there” and how many people in your party (please specify adults vs kids).

Please share the invitation to people who may not be on this blog…ALL are welcome. I want to make sure people know that as I keep hearing about whether this is for only close friends and family or the community at large. Just stress the RSVP part!

Questions or volunteers about the event please contact Roxanna Smith: roxanna.smith@gmail.com. Goddess of all things to do with Lance and his final days and beyond. Without Roxanna, I would be lost!

I know that some of you are coming from out of town. Trip Advisor is a great resource for hotels in Boulder but to name a few…St. Julien, Boulderado, Boulder Outlook, Millennium, Quality Inn.

There is a plan in the works for an informal gathering Saturday night. More to come.

Love and gratitude,
Nancy

Fire on the Mountain

When the above fire broke out behind my house just a few weeks after Lance passed (actually the day after Lance’s birthday), I thought “Okay, this might actually push me over the edge.” As thousands were on a pre-evacuation warning, it beckoned the question “What would I take?” I know people always say pictures…but I was thinking letters…which I had just come across a box full of letters Lance and I had written each other over the years.

After the fire was no longer a threat and the slight sense of panic resided, it made me want to purge…like crazy. I started asking myself, “How would I feel if I lost this in a fire?” and if I wouldn’t miss it, I’ve been donating or tossing it. It’s been a good exercise for me because I realized how replaceable most things are. I’m not saying I wouldn’t be slightly traumatized if my house burned down but I realize that very little I have matters…beside my kids and dog. I mean I already had that lesson over the year but now I felt the need to do something about all the “stuff.” I thought about when you die you leave all these material things behind so why are they so important in this life? When Lance and I would go on our big trips to Asia, we would bring very little and I never missed a thing.

People sometimes ask me what I’ve been doing. Now you know. My sister and I filled three big bags of my clothes and I immediately gave them away. My friend Tiphaine and I practically took shovels into my kids bedroom and cleaned out their room. Every drawer, closet, and room in the house and eventually my attic is getting the big purge and it feels really really good. I’m recruiting more friends to continue the process and for anyone who wants to go at it in my garage is welcome.

I’ve always been a purger (my sisters would disagree but that’s because they are minimalist) but this particular time it feels extremely freeing and cleansing and clearing and just opening up the energy for new beginnings. I am not saying I am ready to move on…but I am willing to do anything and everything that helps me along in this process. I don’t want to be weighted down with stuff. There’s something about uncluttering, freeing the energy, not holding onto stuff….literally and figurtively. It’s amazing the amount of stuff that accumulates.

In case you are wondering if I have gone through Lance’s stuff, my initial reaction was not to touch a thing just in case he came back (I mean he did really look like Jesus when he died) but realized that’s not exactly moving on. I do a little bit here and there and I am trying not to feel too attached to his belongings. I’ve realized that I’ve got the best of him in my kids and his ever present spirit. So far I’ve gone through his clothes and have given the majority of them to his friends and family. I realized I wanted to spread him around and see his friends wearing his clothes and that would make me happy. I kept some ratty beloved t-shirts and sleep with one every night. My kids also kept a collection of his favorite t-shirts and wear them to bed or in Amélie’s case…all the time.

I’m saving the letters for a rainy day.

In the meantime, I’m purging. I encourage you all to do it too. It’s unbelievable addicting and liberating.

Love,
Nance

Music!

Lance was my DJ.

When we first met, he made me countless tapes(!), then we graduated to CD’s and finally to our sonos system. When we discovered sonos, we thought we had died and gone to Heaven. I don’t know what a life without music would be. I listen to music when I’m happy, sad, mellow, mad, and every emotion in between. I know many of you can relate.

We bonded instantly over our love of music. If he was my DJ, I was his muse. He would DJ and I would dance for him and the kids. I could always say “Hey Lance…I’m in this mood, can you put on some music?” He would get it right on the money. His musically tastes were vast…from classical, to punk, to jazz, to hippy, to classic rock, to spiritual, to reggae, to grunge, to country (Johnny Cash country), to world music, to contemporary, to bluegrass to you name it. We related on that level in a big way. While Lance was growing up listening to the Sex Pistols and the Violent Femmes, I was going to my first concert (The Police, Oingo Boingo, Thompson Twins, Madness and The Fixx). We both went to countless Dead Shows. We feel in love to Neil Young and Ben Harper. Lance claimed he had discovered Pearl Jam when they were a little unknown band that came to CU. I thought that was kinda cute and awfully cocky of him ;).

While we were on road trips and if we were listening to the radio, he always tested me to see if I knew the band that was playing. He was always trying to get me but nine out of ten times I would get it right…it never ceased to impress him. I was his match…maybe not quiet as eclectic but somehow I would pull it out of somewhere.

Music to me just defines and intensifies my mood…if i’m elated and listening to a song I love, I feel even more elated. When I’m sad, I blast those sad songs until I can cry no more. I sometimes wonder where my daughter gets her moves and then I realize…duh! Zach thinks I’m weird when I do some goofy dance but claims he loves a weird mom (we’ll see how long that lasts). Bottom line, music is cathartic for me.

Lately I’ve found myself listening to Justin Bieber…embracing Amelie’s music…but have had moments like, “Is this normal? Are other 40 something year olds listening to 18 year olds singing and actually kinda liking it?” There I admitted it!

I’m a little worried Lance is shaking his head wherever he is when he sees me rocking out to JB so this post is actually a request. My DJ is gone but I know I have countless die heart musically friends of all types. Could you post some suggestions of your favorite songs? Happy, sad, danceable…you name it. I need it! I have rhapsody and I can play them instantly.

It will bring lots of joy because I’m a little tired of my music and a little lost without my DJ.

Love and many thanks,
Nancy
PS: Just in case I’ve worried you all, Amelie and I have bonded over Adele too.

 

 

Anniversaries

I’ve been on a hiatus for several reasons…traveling and being with my kids but also feeling the need to unplug. However, I’M BACK (not as in everything is all hunky-dory but I am back to writing) and I have a lot to say in these upcoming months.

Yesterday marked two months since Lance passed. Anniversaries have taken on a whole new meaning. A little over a week ago would have been Lance and my 12th wedding anniversary. I thought we were going to make it to 50, yet we didn’t even make it to 12. That has been my saddest day to date.

I don’t know if I can comment on what grief is yet because I am not sure I even know…for a long time I was in fight or flight mode, then shock and disbelief (still in that phase sometimes) and when the emails and cards stopped coming…a feeling of loneliness, realizing that as time goes on for most, it stands still for me. It was a reminder that I am truly alone on this path, but even so I am continually surrounded by the love of my kids, friends and family and the watchful eyes and loving hearts of my community.

I often read this poem at night…when the day settles and the true loss of my man is felt. It gives me comfort and solace and reminds me that even though I may feel alone and Lance is not here physically, his spirit and soul will always remain.

Native American Prayer
I give you this one thought to keep –
I am with you still – I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning’s hush
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone –
I am with you still – in each new dawn.

Love,
Nancy

 

 

 

Celebrating Lance: Save the date

I never understood when I heard there was a celebration of someone’s life, how you could be celebrating such a sad occasion. I have never been to one so I have had no experience with memorials. Well now I understand. Lance would not want a bunch of people crying over him. He would much prefer we celebrate, reminisce, laugh, dance and have fun. And I do think he will be there in spirit so I would hate to disappoint! So although there may be some tear jerking moments, come celebrate the man who we all loved and cherished and had such a big impact on so many lives.

Here’s the details:
DATE:               Sunday, October 7th
TIME:                2pm to Sundown. Ceremony starts at 2pm, party to follow.
WHERE:           Planet Bluegrass (in Lyons, 20 min outside of Boulder)
INVITED:           Anyone who knew and loved Lance (please feel free to circulate this post)
KIDS:                Absolutely!
EXPECT:          Music, food & drinks
BRING:             Blankets…for kids to sit on (if you are coming from Boulder area)
RSVP:               RSVP to Roxanna at roxanna.smith@gmail.com. Feel free to comment too.
PLEASE:           Car pool

Looking forward to seeing you in October.
LOVE,
Nancy

 

The Cremation

One of the most excruciating conversations Lance and I had (and I want to encourage ALL couples to have NOW…among others I will share in the future) is that of burial vs cremation. Lance and I had talked about it casually over the years…in a very “when we are old, what would you want me to do?” kind of way. Not in a very serious or detailed way at all.

As we were nearing the inevitable, I was desperate to know what Lance wanted. It was on my mind a lot but as I said before I was trying to take Lance’s lead. What I wanted Lance to know was that we (the kids and I) would always keep his spirit alive not only on a daily basis but that we would honor him in many ways throughout the years.

One of the ways was to spread Lance’s ashes to all his favorite places in the world since travel was one of his greatest passions. Some of the places on that list: Telluride (where we were married), Bali (where he had spent time and we always dreamed of spending a year with the kids), Nepal (he was obsessed with Everest), Egypt (Zach and Lance always bonded big time over their fascination with all things Egyptian), Lake City (where Lance spent all but one 4th of July and loved and adored his Gentry relatives), Hanalei (our dreamy last family vacation), Israel (another favorite place of his). We did finally have this conversation, through an emotionally painful tear-filled talk. Lance liked the idea as much as anyone could under the circumstances.

The day of the cremation was something I hadn’t exactly planned. Lance’s childhood friend asked me if I wanted his help getting Lance to the crematorium. I had vaguely thought that I would take him there myself in the truck but it was 30 minutes away and I was worried about the truck breaking down. I gladly accepted the offer and “my girls” arranged for “the guys” to meet at the Shambhala Center to carry Lance’s body down the three flights of stairs. What ensued next was his friends wanting to see Lance through this final process. They all considerately asked if I was okay with them coming (of course I was) and all five guys jumped in the mini van and surrounded Lance.

Just a little background…Lance and I met in 1990 at a Grateful Dead show in LA. So our dear friend Paolo (who also happened to be at the same show but we did not know at the time), burned the CD from the concert and they played it for Lance’s final ride. They even had beers. My friend Tiphaine and I followed behind them.

Once we arrived at the crematorium the atmosphere was very sobering. It was industrial and so final. UGH! I had hoped I would be ready by this time but in truth I wasn’t. I even joked (but was kind of half serious) that I wanted to keep Lance for a few more days and the kids new job could be to replace the dry ice. Later, Paolo said he was thinking the same thing.

We gathered around him, stacked up our hands one by one and said our final goodbyes. But then I realized (besides keeping his hat) that I didn’t want his clothes to go in the fire. I felt like we come into this world with no clothes and should go back the same way. I also didn’t want his clothes to be part of the ashes. I just wanted it to be him. So we undressed him. We left one eagle feather and the white Shambhala sash.

The final part is almost indescribable. All seven of us, with our arms wrapped around each other, watched as the person who tends to the bodies, put Lance in a giant kiln type oven.

Now I have seen many bodies on the pyres along the burning ghats of Varanasi (India) but to see the love of your life…there is no comparison. I have no words to describe what that was like. I don’t regret being there because I wanted to be a part of every step of the process. I guess I needed to see the finality of it and as I said before I never wanted Lance to be alone but it was hands down the hardest part of all.

When we returned to Boulder, we were not ready to part with each other. We had all been part of an extremely personal process for three days and this day in particular had been an intense, emotional day. We needed each other to help lift our spirits. So we went to a roof top restaurant and had a drink. We said many cheers to Lance and reminisced about the man we all and will forever love.

Love,
Nancy

Death demystified & the Ceremony

I don’t even know where to start with the Sukhavati Ceremony. In Buddhist traditions, the body is kept for 3 days after death to help release the spirit from the physical body. Just to clarify, I knew NOTHING about this a few weeks before Lance’s death. But a kind, gentle person in my life encouraged me that it might be something I would want to consider. I hadn’t really thought about the process of Lance dying and what that would/could look like. Truthfully, I wasn’t exactly ready to face it. I was still holding out for Divine Intervention.

My first thoughts were “Keep Lance’s body around for 3 days?” “How would my kids feel?” “How would I feel?” Death had always scared me when I was young and still as an adult, I was weary of how I would feel about the dying process and seeing a dead body. But one thing I knew with every ounce of my being was that wisking Lance’s body away right after dying would feel shocking, empty and invasive. Plus, the idea of freeing Lance’s spirit? That was definitely something I wanted to do. I wanted to do everything and anything for Lance. So I opened my mind to the process and only a couple weeks before Lance passed, I met with a woman who guided me through the process of having a home death.

My gut told me that having Lance home for 3 days might be too hard on my kids…especially because during that time you open your doors to allow people who loved him to come spend time with him. That was daunting. So I discussed with a couple close friends what other options I had. The Shambhala center was brought up and being that Lance, the kids and I had a history there, I knew immediately that was the perfect place.

Roxanna, Alison & Tiphaine

Now I’ve mentioned “the guys” but without these three amazing, loving and completely devoted, get-it-done woman, none of this would have gone so smoothy. I basically handed off everything to them and they had everything ready for when the time came. It was only two days before Lance died that we got the okay from the Shambhala Center. I was feeling the pressure but my girls were all over it.

Initially, I thought being at the Shambhala Center would allow for people to visit and sit with Lance but then Roxanna asked me ever so sweetly, “Would you like to have a little ceremony for Lance?” Trusting in all things that Roxanna suggests, I said yes and quickly met with the woman who would officiate the most beautiful and moving ceremony for my sweet deserving husband.

What this ceremony brought for me, my kids, family and friends was peace and acceptance for the beautiful man who happened to have the most undeniable graceful and peaceful smile that comforted us all beyond words. What he did for me and I have heard over and over again, is he demystified the dying process. For many of the people, it was the first time seeing someone who had passed, and there was nothing remotely scary about it, not even for my kids or the many kids who attended the ceremony.

Zach, Amelie’s and my hands with a red tail hawk wing lying on Lance’s chest

My kids were able to partake in the ceremony by offering elements to the altar (this was symbolic and something they took very seriously and profoundly) and people got a chance to tell funny and endearing stories of the man we all loved. Even Zach’s 10 year old friend Giacomo spontaneously stood up, in front of 250 people and spoke about how much he loved Lance, what a great father he was and how sad he was that he was gone. If people hadn’t teared up by that point they had now.

Thank you to Lindy who did a beautiful job officiating the service.

We also did a tonglen meditation which is breathing in our own fears, pain and sorrow and releasing it so that nothing hinders Lance’s passage. At the very end of the ceremony Lance’s photo was burned while the entire room chanted Namo Amitabhaya meaning “Homage to Infinite Light” (giving boundless light and infinite life). The ashes and sand from the picture burning were then scattered in the mountains along a trail Lance used to run during a silent walk attended by a couple friends, my kids and Lance’s mom.

There was a sense of joy and celebration for this larger than life being contrasting sharply with the great loss that was felt by all of this beautiful man, husband, father, son and dear friend.

Where there is light, there is darkness and in the dark we instinctively turn toward the light and that is one of the many gifts Lance taught us.

Love,
Nancy

Happy Birthday Lance

Lance with Mt. Everest in the distance

Today would have been Lance’s 44th Birthday. That makes me sad. People asked me if Father’s Day would be hard not knowing that his birthday was just a week away. I knew this would be harder. Not because we would have had a big celebration. We wouldn’t have. Lance never really liked celebrating his birthday too much. What makes me sad is to think he would have been 44 and it is a reminder of how young he was. He used to always say (pre-diagnosis) “I’m old” but as soon as he was diagnosed, he was suddenly “so young.”

The one thing that gives me solace on this otherwise sorrowful day, is Lance lived half the time that the majority of us will live but the time he did live, he lived it big. Anyone that knew Lance knew how much he lived life fully. He lived passionately, courageously, and enthusiastically.

A voracious reader who traveled the world, skied like a mad man, built companies from scratch while being an awesome dad, husband and friend, built everything from kitchens to bathrooms to tree houses and real houses (maybe not to perfection but hey..at least he did it), did 10 day solo vision quests, summited Kilimanjaro, traveled with the Bedouin’s in the Middle East (Syria & Jordan), hiked to Everest base camp, scuba dived in the Red Sea at night during a full moon, went on an African safari in a do it yourself way (not high end), climbed to the top of the pyramids in Egypt (I think illegal now and maybe then too ;)) and ran barefoot (these are just a few of the things that come to mind).

Lance was a “can do” guy. There was nothing he felt that he couldn’t accomplish. I am continually reminded by others how Lance lived the lives of three people combined and that gives me comfort. One friend said to me recently, “Lance was too much of an adventurer not to come back and visit.” Hoping for that too…

So on this day, I am going to go hike in the mountains behind our house, reminisce about all the things Lance achieved big and small and give thanks to his spirit that was and is such a big inspiration in my life.

Happy Birthday Lance. I miss you.
xo
Nance