Day 11 turned into a week – Traveling to California

Inspired by the lyrics to the song Smile, this week’s video and blog are meant to remind everyone to feel a sense of joy in their lives, even when their journey becomes difficult.

Transitions; life is full of them—birth, puberty, midlife, passing. Change provides us with the opportunity to open our minds and hearts, and at times spurs us on to reinvent who we are. Yet change and transitions are not always easy—even when you see them heading your way.

This week Steven and I experienced one of life’s major transitions when his mother, Gwen Smeltzer, passed on Saturday, the 5th of November. We knew her time was near, yet in the end the knowing doesn’t make it any easier.

On the days leading up to our journey to California for Gwen’s Celebration of Life gathering, I thought about what this week’s blog would consist of…do I emote the passing of a gracious woman and the sadness of our loss, or profess the cosmic transition that we will all inevitably experience. Then in my mind I kept seeing Gwen’s smiling face and started humming the song Smile, and decided that was it. This week’s video would show the sweet side of the human spirit.

Kelle & Tamiru

Heading off to California our first stop was San Francisco to connect with Steven’s daughter, Kelle, and his grandson, Tamiru.

While we were there we also enjoyed the company of good friends, as well as smiling strangers that allowed me to take their photographs.

Jamie, Wray, Steven & Debra at Mavericks

Our friends Debra and Jamie took us to Half Moon Bay, where we ate a lot of food, then walked over to Mavericks surf break (which is the closest Steven will ever come to actually surfing there—he doesn’t like my saying that); just by chance we met Jeff Clark, the first person to ever surf Mavericks humongous waves.

We stayed in Berkeley; spent time on Haight Street in the city and ate a lot of food, got lost a number of times, met up with our friends Yulia and Dan in Sausalito, and ate a lot of food. (Funny thing is we aren’t what you would consider to be foodies.)

One of many Bay area murals.

From SF we flew down to Los Angeles and our focus changed. After briefly connecting with my sister and brother-in-law (and eating a lot of food) Steven and I helped his sister, Susan, finish up preparations for their mother’s Celebration of Life gathering.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to look into someone’s past, it is an interesting experience—at times sad, and at the same time life affirming—seeing who they were before you knew them, learning things about them that they had never shared, and you never thought to ask about.

Gwen – in the late 1930’s

We all knew Gwen as a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, community worker; but we’d been clueless that she was also a published poet and had performed on stage. Neatly folded up with her keepsakes were old newspaper articles about her from the 1930’s and early 1940’s; they were fragile and crumbling apart, but we felt as if we’d discovered a buried treasure chest filled with rare coins. We were humbled by her lifetime of humility.

Just as when my amazing mother passed several years ago, in Gwen’s passing she has given me one last gift; the desire to be a better person, a kinder person, a person that pursues her dreams.

Thank you Gwen. And thank you to all of our friends and family for their love and support.


Note: In 1936 Charlie Chaplin composed music for his movie Modern Times, then in 1954 John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added the lyrics, & titled the song Smile. Rod Stewart sings the version on the attached video.