Story You Tell Cycle of Life

The Circle of Life

The Joy of Birth

My friends Kate and Drew are due to have a baby on May 10. This was my due date for my youngest son many years ago. As we await Baby Castle’s birth, I am thinking of how quickly the scariness and the pain of childbirth lifts and the joy of having a baby floods our lives with love. With learning. Even while serving up huge helpings of the unexpected and exhaustion.

Of course, life is always serving up the unexpected. A couple of weeks ago my hot pink Indian dress arrived for Sam Goode’s wedding.  I was waltzing around the kitchen in it, excited to attend my first Indian wedding, when my cell phone buzzed, and I heard the shaky voice of Steve’s cousin Nan who lives in Los Angeles. She is a jewel–the cousin who has always taken care of Steve’s large Italian family that is strewn across the country from Altoona, Pennsylvania, to Los Angeles. She always calls to bring us together, and that day was no different.

The Pain of Loss

As Nan wept, she explained her husband’s quick plight through esophageal cancer and sudden death. She had not wanted to concern us with it—until now. Then I was weeping, and then when Steve overheard our conversation, he, too, cried. Our plans took a tumble, and we headed to Riverside National Cemetery.

Early Friday we arrived at the committal shelter where Gerry was to be honored as a veteran. Nan greeted us warmly, and we celebrated Gerry with tributes, including a nine-volley salute and the ceremonial folding and presentation of the American flag. Later over photos and memories and wine, we laughed as hard as we cried.

But late that night, on the flight back to Phoenix, I scribbled notes in my journal. I was most touched by Nan’s daughter’s tribute to her stepdad, Gerry. For he had sacrificed so much to be her dad. Nan was one of the first women making a mark for herself in the aerospace industry, and she had to travel to do it. Although Gerry worked in the same field, he made sure he could be home whenever Nan traveled. “He was the best dad,” explained Andrea at the service. Clearly the two developed a lifelong bond over simple things like grocery shopping, their love of eating at a local diner, and mainly over their shared passion for dogs. Today Andrea is a well-loved vet with her own clinic. “You know,” she explained, “I am who I am because Gerry was the dad he was.”

Sandra Marinella Circle of Life Blog

The Transformative Power of Love 

Early the next morning Steve dawned his navy kurta set, and I slipped into my hot pink dress for the Sikh wedding ceremony of our friends Sam Goode and Anjin Singh. Now I met Sam when he was ten, an energetic and cute boy. Sam loved sports and as he aged, he played first football, and then he took on wrestling and working out. But it was his unexpected love of welding that probably cemented his friendship with my husband.

Often at gatherings, Sam would be huddled with Steve in the corner of a kitchen or family room chatting quietly about machines. Sam loved welding, but he didn’t want to spend his whole life welding. Could engineering work? Could Sam eventually build machines, like Steve? Machines that make heart valves or seat belts? Or maybe ones that built work-out equipment? That was Sam’s dream.

Sometimes a girl would show up with Sam. Girls were okay, but nothing to get serious with. Until there was Anjin. Tall, dark haired, and more than beautiful. Anjin embraced life with curiosity and liked rock climbing, hiking, and dancing.  But more than that she was an epidemiologist with a passion for the work she did–helping investigate the patterns and causes of diseases while seeking to reduce risk and negative health outcomes. During COVID she was helping in the fight to overcome the pandemic. She wanted to make a difference.

Suddenly Sam went back to school to finish his engineering degree.  He began to take his career more seriously, and suddenly he blossomed into a man who knew who he was and where he was headed. And now he was wearing a red turban and marrying Anjin.

This morning, I needed to make sense of all I have experienced in recent days. As I finished scribbling these notes in my journal, I realized what a roller coast of emotions I have juggled. But these words allowed me to surface and to touch something bigger than me. Perhaps awe at “The Circle of Life.”  For I realized I loved the births of my children. I loved how Gerry changed Andrea. And I loved how Anjin changed Sam.

In my head I kept hearing Elton’ John’s voice singing the words from The Lion King theme. For life is a circle. It is hard. We face the unexpected diagnosis, the terrible losses, and the resulting sadness and pain. But when we hear the first cries come from a newborn, or the first words come from a child, or we discover a kindness, or experience love, we are lifted up and “find our place on the path unwinding. In the circle, the circle of life.”


Here is the link to “The Circle of Life”  lyrics by Tim Rice and  music by Elton John