The arrival of spring was last week’s column topic.  I talked about new leaves and flowers, of patios and music.  I talked about eagerly anticipating our upcoming festivals. I encouraged readers to get outside, take it all in, live out loud.  And then, my friend and colleague of 26 years died.

Just like that, he was gone.  It was unexpected, as dying most often is, even when we know it’s coming.  In this case, no one did.

His family called it a celebration of life.  He was a great, genuine man who laughed, loved and lived with abandon, brimming with passion.  More than 500 people gathered on the deep green lawn in chairs, on benches.  Many stood because the crowd spread the entire length of yard, all of us there paying tribute to a life well lived.

There were heartfelt speeches about the impacts he made on his community, stories of lives he touched and funny tales of shared adventures pursuing big ideas for which he was known.  Amidst it all, my eyes focused on fresh leaves in the big oak canopy above our heads and the tell-tale evidence of Earth’s rebirth in progress among the flowers and shrubs he so loved.  And the birds!  How they tweeted about with springtime joy, oblivious to the human plight unfolding below them.

photo 9New life, so fresh and beautiful, becoming in the exact same moment as life was ending.  For some reason, this realization felt profound.  It’s happening every minute of every day, simultaneous beginnings and endings.  I know that, of course.  But the knowledge registered somewhere deeper than before.  I looked at his children and grandchildren and saw him living long into the future in memories and stories and legacy.  They are the springtime to his winter.

Borrowing from a cliché, the events of this past week have reminded me that life really is, in fact, a circle.  There is beauty in every season.  This is the reason I so love spring.  It is the season for starting fresh, waking up after winter’s death, oddly beautiful in its own way.

This coming weekend is one of my favorite times in Denton’s annual life.  The Denton Arts & Jazz Festival brings thousands of visitors and most Dentonites together in Quakertown Park for a marvelous celebration of music, art, food and fun. We’ll see friends, catch up with folks we haven’t seen in a while, and meet people from all over the country.

Music on seven stages keeps the crowds moving among more than 300 artists and crafters.  Big-name national talent shares stages with local up-and-comers.  The UNT Jazz program’s finest perform along with local music and dance troupes.  Some 3,000 of the best performers across all music genres will entertain throughout the weekend.

So, how does Arts & Jazz Fest fit into this column given its bleak opening?  For the first time in 20 years, I found myself wondering if my spirit would be up for all of it this time around, given the circle of life’s ending with which I’ve been affected these past days.

My dad used to say that conviction is a knowing beyond knowing.  It is that moment when you know that you know that you know.  That evening in the midst of a celebration of life, I got it.  I grasped the big picture, the circle from start to finish.  It is spring.  Life goes on.  And my spirit will too.

After the service, we lingered for hours reminiscing about the good times we had with our dear friend.   Even those of us strangers to one another were bound by his friendship.  We laughed and toasted our great fortune to have shared in his wonderful, infectious life. He would have loved the celebration.  Somewhere, I’m sure he was smiling.

He would love Denton’s Arts & Jazz Fest, too.  It would grieve him to know any one of us stopped loving life in his absence.  If anything, loving life was his story.  That’s why I know I’m as ready as ever to embrace the joy that is Arts & Jazz to me.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)

Rest in peace, Don Bigbie.