Lives Well Lived: a Tribute to my Parents.

“My dad’s in nuclear nonproliferation. What does your dad do?”

“I go now to seek a great perhaps.” ~ Francois Rabelais

[A talk I gave at my a party celebrating my dad, Arvid Lundy’s 80th birthday and he and my stepmom, Mary Jo Lundy’s 40th anniversary.]

What’s the purpose of a life? While the answer to this question is unique to each, for most it includes a desire to bring meaning and value to others, make a positive difference in the world, and have fun while doing it.

The fact that you’re all here today is a testament to the way Arvid and Mary Jo Lundy have lived with purpose.

While I can’t speak for everyone, I’d like to share a sampling of the positive influence they’ve had on my life.

But first, today is my dad’s birthday. He’s 80 years old. Can we give him a round of applause?

Go, Arvid! When I’m 80, I want to be able to ride a bike like he does, or remember random facts, or tell a story with such enthusiasm that I laugh and cry all at once.

When I’m 80, I think I might like to have as many friends as he does. Look around.

These faces paint the landscape of Arvid and MJ’s journey, as beautiful as any Georgia O’Keefe.

I’ve been hearing stories about you all for years. Maybe you’ve heard one or two about me. Maybe you’ve even included me and my sister in your morning prayers. Thank you.

When I’m 80, I’d like to have traveled to as many countries as my dad and Mary Jo have. How many is it? Have you guys counted?

By the time I get to their age, I’d like to have read as many books as my dad says he’s read.

No way, I mean if he read that many books, wouldn’t he be smart?

Seriously, my dad’s so smart even his job title had to get a security clearance: Nuclear nonproliferation. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?

Yeah, sometimes I pull that out at parties, the way teenagers used to pull out Marlboros, to impress. “My dad’s in nuclear nonproliferation. What does your dad do?”

It works better outside my hometown of Los Alamos with the overpopulation of PhDs.

Anyhow, back to my dad. We can all agree he’s super smart, right?

I grew up surrounded by smart: my stepbrother John…He’s got like 42 post-doctorate degrees, my sister Jayne, knows the answer to everything. She’s like Siri for how to handle life. Then, Emily—don’t even get me started. If you look up well-adjusted in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Emily, with her husband and kids, and soon a dog. Right, Drew? (Emily’s son)

All these people and stories tie together like a string of pearls. It started with two people, who met in the Black Forest in Colorado. Even though each had been burned before, they chose to follow that voice that said, “This time, you’ll get it right.” They got it right.

Arvid and Mary Jo created their Exclusive Club for Two, but set out a welcome mat for many.

MJ, Arvid, my brother Bill (deceased), sister Jayne, stepsister Emily, and stepbrother John: these are my people.

From my dad, I’ve learned the most about myself, my ability to forgive, and how people grow. When I say grow, I mean grow up and, by people, I mean my dad.

Actually, I mean both of us. We’ve grown into our relationship.

Like most kids, I grew up feeling that my dad didn’t get me, didn’t hear me, and always thought he was right and I was wrong. I was a teenager, right?

But, then my mom got sick and my dad drove two hours each way to give blood to a woman he was no longer married to in the hopes that she would live.

When my mom died, my dad offered to pay for me to go to Tony Robbins Life Mastery—a sort of alternative school for kids who turned into adults before finishing college.

In Maui, at Life Mastery, I climbed up a 50-foot telephone pole, stood on top and then jumped off, flying to catch a trapeze bar, and swung into the next chapter of life without my mom.

Thank you, Dad and Mary Jo. You invested in me, encouraged me, and served as role models. Mostly, you’ve helped me live my life on full.

Mary Jo’s got a habit of that kind of thing. Early on, as if I was a floppy puppy rather than a mouthy teenager, MJ invited me closer to her, and to my better self.

Mary Jo is Chicken Soup for my Soul.

She encouraged me to run when all I wanted to do is run away (and she might’ve preferred that).

She showed me a 14-year-old cynic didn’t have to be.

Mary Jo cheered at my races, worried for my future, and connected with the goodness at my core.

It may be hard for you to believe, but I was a bit of a troublemaker… Yet, Mary Jo openly loved me and invited me to be a better version of myself.

In 2012, at age 38, I spent the summer writing and living with my parents in Santa Fe.

One day, I was off to meet with a man-friend. Mary Jo came at me like Aibileen Clark in the movie The Help. She delivered a personalized version of, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

I laughed as I drove away, anchored in confidence and on fire with love.

More than telling me, Mary Jo acts on her love by investing time in important pursuits, like playing Canasta with my brother Bill and me and our stepbrother John, while telling stories about her sister Anne, the Queen of Canasta, who won every single time when they were kids.

I love those stories. Mary Jo’s stories bubble over with inspiring messages, like she’s a walking sermon.

A couple of my favorite MJ pearls: 1) Your feelings aren’t right or wrong; they’re signposts. 2) It’s not always/either or; sometimes it’s both.

I carry these gems like badges for belonging, worthiness, and decision making.

I think if Mary Jo had only one sermon, it would be: “Love the Underdog. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.”

I’m reading something Mary Jo’s writing. It’s not meant to be a sermon, but it might be her best one yet.

I hope you get to read the stories and history of Mary Jo Lundy’s life. It’s the life of a pioneer, an educator, an activist, and a spiritual seeker. A woman who stood up for Civil Rights, worked in the Peace Corps, and endured divorce—all of which call for courage. Mary Jo is courageous.

And adventurous. I think she took my dad to climb as many 14ers—that’s mountains above 14,000 feet—as he took her to ski resorts when they dated.

These days, with my parents’ age, people ask me, “Are your parents still active?” Uh, is coffee still how I start my day?

I imagine Arvid and Mary Jo’s conversations going something like this:

Hey, honey, what do you want to do this summer? Um, how about we ride our bikes across the country?

Again? I don’t know. I was kind of thinking of going to India to do a water project or Ethiopia to acquire a taste for coffee.

Ok, well, if we can go to prayer group and I’ve got my women’s group…no, not that one, the one here. And, of course, Patrick and Daphne are visiting.

Ok, yeah, we can fit that in, but first, let’s take Ginger, our coyote, for a bike ride, where we’ll lose her, freak out, then find her like we do every time.

Ok, but I want to go visit Emily and my grandkids and John…

And on it goes for two people fulfilling their purpose as authentic, courageous, active, civic-minded citizens.

After careers, homes, and travels fade, if you have even one or two friends who know and love you through your vulnerabilities and cheer your milestones, you hold the key to happiness.

As I look around this room, I see a treasure trove of friendships.

For this event, Arvid and Mary Jo said no gifts, but I never followed their rules anyway. So, I’d like to ask you to give them a gift that will ripple after tonight.

Take a moment to look around, into the eyes of others. Each one of us is a pearl, formed from the grit of life. Just one pearl on its own is pretty, but a strand of them is a statement.

Together, we’re like a string of pearls. We’re a luminous collection.

Can’t you just feel the good ju-ju?

Help celebrate a lifetime of love by sharing your stories of the gifts they’ve given throughout the years.

Arvid and Mary Jo, thank you. I love you. Congratulations!

6 thoughts on “Lives Well Lived: a Tribute to my Parents.

  1. I wish my parents were still here so I could pen them such a touching, heartfelt and loving tribute. Since they aren’t I’ll just enjoy yours instead. You captured the lives of two people I’ve never met and made it easy to grasp why you love them so much.

    Liked by 1 person

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