Grateful… For It All.

These are crazy times. As TV sitcoms of dysfunctional families battle reality shows of dysfunctional families for eyeballs (both currently losing out to the dysfunctional Washington, D.C.), the decent folks of SW Lake Co. are all too ready for a breath of cool autumn air.

Fortunately, we’re blessed with November, and its focus on the meaningfulness of friends and family: its gatherings for Thanksgiving Day and beyond, where we can share our tales of victory and defeat, of pain and exhilaration, of mourning and triumph, with those who if we’re lucky just may care. The stories of our lives deserve this dignity.

I recently was privileged to attend a spectacular live performance of story-telling artist Will Tremont, host of “In Vino Veritas” (a storyteller’s event at Bliss Wine in Wauconda), in his comeback performance after nearly a year recovering from a serious, near fatal cancer diagnosis. It was an inspirationally triumphant evening. I can’t wait for the next one (7 p.m. November 25).

Adding icing to the emo-cake: I received a recent blast-from-the-past of simultaneous serendipity and sadness. Decades ago, I was devastated by the loss of an immensely talented musician-friend killed in the crash of Northwest Flight 255, returning home to Phoenix from a concert in Michigan. He’d just turned 18. Trying to cope, I wrote a song in his memory, performing it at his funeral with other dear friends. Thirty-two years later, friends of his family contacted me: “Might you be able to locate the sheet music for that song from Ben’s funeral,” they asked. “Ben’s sister just lost her (20-something) son. Ben’s mom would like your song sung at his memorial service.”

Digging through 30 years of cached memories was a whirlwind; an intensely personal roller-coaster recall of “the best of times, the worst of times.” I rejoiced in so many amazing memories of my Arizona family and musician-friends. I was grateful to find the song, but agonized by the occasion for its encore.

I’m hopeful that such shared memories and memorials of intertwined lives serve as a balm, a bond, and a boost to our spirits. And I felt renewed gratitude for my loving wife, who makes my life meaningful and co-pilots our ship through all of life’s times of storms and smooth sailing.

And so here we are. It’s time for gratitude, for the all and the whole of it.

Grateful to see you around town,

Stephen Neilson

Editor and Chief Photographer

ABOUT THE COVER: Stephen Neilson photo of the columbariam garden at Long Grove Community Church.