Yesterday I went to the nicest memorial service I've ever attended.
Take a minute and imagine the last time you attended a funeral or a memorial for someone who died.
Somber. Serious. Probably in the church or temple where they were raised. Organ music. Maybe a choir.
Forget all that.
Imagine a gloriious, sunny October day in Malibu, California, high on a hilltop at the outdoor track of Pepperdine University.
Not the traditional house of worship, but a place where over two hundred friends and family have gathered to honor a two-time Olympian, who taught thousands of students, teammates, family and friends what it meant to enjoy sports and treat their bodies with reverence throughout their lives.
We have a magnificent view of the Pacific ocean and a cool breeze blows just enough to lower the heat of the sun.
There is a tent where you can get coffee, croissants, bagels, cream cheese and lots of fruit. Another tent where you can write your memories of this amazing woman in a large scrapbook. Momentos of her accomplishments are displayed nearby -- including a few of the many awards, honors, and letters of distinction she received throughout her life.
A par-course and two volleyball courts have been set up on the infield. In fact, as we arrive, there are already some old Hall of Famers passing the ball around.
Most people are dressed in running shoes and shorts.
There are baby blue t-shirts for everyone, compliments of the university -- all with the number two and the message, "I'm jogging with Patti."
Jogging for forty minutes was a requirement in one of her introductory PE courses. You didn't pass unless you could. So the shirts were a nice momento, but they came with responsibility. Anyone who took one was asked to do a lap around the track. Speed was not a requirement.
The memorial begins about half an hour late. There is a sense that this is a gathering that will never be duplicated. So people want to savor the moments. They aren't in that much of a hurry to get it over with.
Once everybody gets seated, one of the legends in Patti's sport -- volleyball -- welcomes everyone and introduces the first speaker. One by one, friends, family and colleagues get up to recount their stories of how Patti inspired them.
She and her husband are believed tobe the only married Hall of Famers in an Olympic sport.
Following the 2000 Olympics, Pepperdine honored over 30 past and present Olympic athletes at the halftime of a basketball game. They had five minutes to introduce everyone. Patti received a two minute standing ovation from the crowd.
As much as three times a week her 7:00, 8:00, 9:00 and 10:00 AM classes would have a three mile run scheduled. This year, even though she was in her sixties and not well, she would do the run with all of them, the equivalent of a half marathon a day [almost] several times a week.
She was careful to balance what she ate with what her body needed. This meant not being tempted by the legendary peanut butter, baloney and mayonnaise sandwiches her husband would make for the kids. Choosing a small cheese sandwich instead.
But during the two weeks at volleyball nationals each year in May, she would start out a long day of play with a jumbo plate that usually had an enormous cheese and veggie omelet, hash browns, a couple of pieces of toast, and a full serving of fruit on it. And eat the whole thing.
There is laughter, tears, and when it ends, everyone is invited to enjoy the day -- play some volleyball, visit with friends, take another lap around the track, do the par-course.
It was a great way to remember Patti.
On her kind of day.