I love the summer. Oh, how I love the heat, the sun, the smell of coconut sunscreen and the inevitable need for air conditioning. I crave it when it leaves me and though I am always stunned by the beauty of my adopted home state of Virginia in the fall, often I feel a sense of loss as I watch summer fade away.
Not this time. This week our autumn dawned in Virginia with the most perfect timing in the most perfect setting. It was cool, but not too cold. The sun shone bright. The orange, yellow and red leaves were stunning. The sky was blue and clear for as far as I could see.
I watched autumn arrive Monday on the green grass of a golf course as a part of the Kyle's Kamp Gavin Rupp Open which was held for the first time this year to raise money for Pediatric Cancer patients and their families. And boy, was it gorgeous. But the autumn colors, the blinding sunshine and the glorious leaves? Well, they were nothing compared to the beauty of the men, women and children I rubbed elbows with all day. And most certainly, the exquisite landscape paled in comparison to the boy we came to honor and remember.
And in light of this world of darkness and despair, isn't that quite startling? Imperfect are we, the human race. Flawed and broken and damaged. We stumble and fall. It seems we're doing and saying all the wrong things all the time. We are selfish and narcissistic. Our culture, our news reporters and our cable talk shows scream it at us hour after hour. Oh, look at how screwed up we are. Well, I declare, we're all just a big ol' mess.
This morning I respectfully disagree. On Monday, I watched throngs of God's frail, imperfect, flawed people. And what I saw in those folks' shining eyes, in their embracing arms, in their generous hands?
I saw beauty. Beauty in a group of ordinary human beings that shone even brighter than the breathtaking glory of autumn in Virginia.
We were and are broken by the loss of Gavin Rupp. We were and are stunned by how cancer robs children of their finest days. We have heard too many stories of families plunged into grief we cannot comprehend. We are all mixed up. We are limping along, still wiping the dust from our eyes and asking our God, "What the HECK was that about?!"
I am quite sure that we will not find an appropriate answer this side of heaven.
But we, slowly and deliberately, are dusting off the ashes. We are looking for beauty. Our eyes are opened now. We are searching desperately. And this is what we found on Monday.
We found Kyle and Mathias fighting their own battles against cancer while draining putts on Hole #15 with George, Ian, Abby and Gavin's brave dad as golfers cheered them on.
We found volunteers taking off work and showing up in droves begging to be put to work.
We found Gavin's siblings charming everyone around the golf course - Abby with her sparkling blue eyes and Ian with his sweet, shy smile.
We found precious Tara continuing her own battle against cancer as she helped draw the raffle tickets and, to the great delight of the crowd, found herself with a boatload of treasures at the evening's end.
We found the hands of ridiculously generous people raised over and over to outbid each other at the auction.
We found Mr. Ayers winning the 50/50 and then promptly turning around and giving every dime right back to Kyle's Kamp
Corporate greed? Not here. We found businesses around our community stepping up with sponsorships and donated silent auction items that were coming out of our ears.
Spoiled professional athletes? Wrong again. We found Bryce Harper's loyalty to Gavin continue as he shipped multiple items to our auction even up until two days before the event.
Hey, Gavin, I do believe, that perhaps we found some beauty. Did you see? Did you see it floating up to you? It was everywhere, Gavin. It rose up above us into the sky and through the trees and hovered around your sweet family. Your parents were simply amazing. Your sister, your brother, your friends. My thesaurus has no adequate word for them. They were grace and hope and strength, buddy. We were baffled by their beauty.
So, yes, among the brokenness, among the sadness and the grief, I think we found some beauty. But we will not stop looking. We are going to keep floundering along with hope and purpose and faith. We promise you. We promise Kyle, Tara, Mathias, Gabriella, Chris, Reed, Shawn, Connor and Jackson. We promise each and every one.
We are projecting the total amount raised by a golf tournament thrown together in six weeks to be upwards of $30,000 for Children's National Hospital - for their patients and for programs for their siblings.
This is beauty. The beauty of the ordinary folks you left behind, Gavin. You, your life, your legacy. You are helping us to become something extraordinary. Something even more beautiful than the dawning of autumn on an October morning in Virginia.