Our love for celebrating life started long before Katherine’s stroke. In fact, about a year after we married and moved to California, in 2006, we began a tradition that continues to this day. Katherine’s birthday is March 8, and mine is April 1, so we decided that instead of subjecting our friends to two separate birthday parties back to back, we would just throw a joint party for each other.
Having just come off the theme-centric party circuit of college Greek life, we continued in that party-planning vein–who doesn’t love a good theme?! As new Californians and residents of Malibu (our law school married housing dorm did actually have a view of the ocean), we figured there would be no better theme for our first big joint birthday party than the beach.
Our inexperience and youthful naivete prompted us to choose the most spectacular beach in Malibu for the event, El Matador Beach–never mind that this particular beach was a good hour from where most of our friends lived or that it was so beautiful mostly because it is remotely located at the bottom of a rather precarious cliff. We were not deterred and rather than a simple “potluck” picnic, we hauled down a small tent, tables, linens, serving ware, and food and drinks for about 50 people. I am really not sure what we were thinking there, but it worked, thanks to some dear friends, particularly the Dobsons and Coffees and my sister Sarah, who made untold trips up and down, like a line of ants carrying coolers and boxes from the top of the cliff to the beach below.
After hours of set up, not to mention weeks of planning, it was time for the party. We tend to suffer from short-term weather memory in Southern California, but April and May can be quite gloomy, particularly on the beach. As our guests began to arrive, God bless them, it began to rain. Thankfully, it was more of a heavy misting than a full-on lighting storm, but still it seemed the whole ordeal might be a bust. As “devastating” as it seemed at first, almost everyone still came, and took off their shoes in the sand and let their hair get wet. Something about that very unexpected element at the party not only made it a little more fun, but I’m pretty sure that night was not soon forgotten by our guests.
Those memories have always been so pleasant to think back on as they were so representary of who Katherine and I are…a team, celebrating life together. After Katherine’s stroke, remembering that lovely time and others like it were suddenly overwhelmed by the painful realization that they might always only be memories, never to be experienced again. I had never considered the inherent physicality of that party–the carrying boxes, walking through sand, climbing up and down the hillside–until Katherine’s physical abilities were so called into question. Would we ever be able to make the climb down to that spectacular place again? Would our memories of those times on El Matador Beach stay just memories, fading like the misty rain on an April evening?
This past April, six years after our momentous celebration at El Matador Beach, we had another celebration of sorts there, and in many ways, this one was far more momentous than the first…
(check back for Part 2…)