It was my 10th Sunrise on the Shore and it will be irreplaceable. Good Friday was good. People, song, dress pants. A work afternoon in familiar coziness, tucked in sound booth, full view of palms indoor and out and “Sunday Comin’,” but fam far away.

Saturday magic. First glimpse of the bowl. Electricity humming in heart and wire. So much love in bouncy people wearing tennies they’d exchange tomorrow for the “good shoes” at home waiting for the big day. Relaxed, unwatched worship, chill and playful under gray skies, for passers by and empty chairs, white plastic emptiness waiting like the good shoes, with that uncontainability of “Sunday Comin’,” but fam far away.

Ministry stories started popping up as they tend to on an Easter countdown. Michaelangelo, the cashier at RiteAid on 101, who I circled all the way back to with an invite flyer and told him in camaraderie, “go to church.” He gave me a soulful, “whoooo I jes’ might!” Shawna who fought cancer, was fighting a sibling’s cancer, lost her dad, and another sibling, found her fight song wafting unexpectedly through the restaurant window during soundcheck, and knew it meant her family had found their Easter Morning plans.

I grabbed the canon and headed back to shore for a photo or two but ended up burning the near midnight oil with near midnight colored balloons filled with helium and laughter while the rougher night waves rumbled in the dark against the pier. As I left, windows down to pull salt air in, I realized I still had 7 minutes of possibility to snag only the best sammich west of the Rockies (#PauloSpecialTwo Brothers From Italy Pizza- Coast Hwy, substitute the ham with pastrami, extra peperroncinis on the side), while Palomar College Radio played old ghost story radio shows on AM1320. Couldn’t be better with “Sunday Comin’.” Except the part about fam far away.

Last minute preparations, everyone on tilt, sleep near 2am, up at 5, tired but ready, warmest SOS morning in a decade, coffees, Betty’s Lot, badly blowing up beach balls, focused now, pile into Green Room for last circleup lyric run. Apparently I was missing some very revealing texts from “some people” trying to get a hold of me. My phone was being used to play the tracks for the rehearsing crew so I didn’t see the pics of beloved faces posing victoriously…by the pier outside the room.

The rest is a blur. Someone walked in through that familiar old door and said there was someone looking for Amy. 30 mins to countdown, what went wrong? Programs carted off to Mexico? A friendly face rounded the corner, hair nicely combed and a sharp silver jacket, and smiled at me. Just a smile, not a word. I couldn’t say anything but “NO” and stare stock still. For a good 15 seconds. When I realized the circle was a bit concerned and waiting for someone to budge, I snapped out of the stupor and shared my shock: “That’s my DAD!!” It took another 60 seconds of dumbfoundery to think it through to “waitaminute….is MOM here TOO???” Don’t know why she wouldn’t be, it was the confusion talking, and I didn’t wait for an answer. Head-poke out that sentimental door and there she was in row 2 or 3 in black-watch wrap with a little leap of excited shoulders that rolled into a high wave. She was there too. They were here. All New Venture loved ones, the heart-swelling ministry of feeling the community reached, the magic of what God does on the shore, the memory of where my mother was baptized and where many are, annually, about 100 yards down, the best day of the year on this spot. Sunday not coming, and family not far away. Everything here. Everything at once. The sun was up and the banner hung saying, “He’s Alive. Let’s Celebrate.” So we did. Every one of us.

We kept celebrating for unexpected days. After a couple grand services, “the Bartletts” took to an unexpected family adventure, wherein God blessed with literally the ONLY available table at L’Auberge Del Mar’s Easter Brunch [“if you can get here in 20 minutes”], Carlsbad Flower Fields intensely in bloom, a quick “Tour of Torrey” (Pines) as mom said, lolling famous grounds and breathing the wind off the cliffs, Two Bros. take two, for two zitis baked and unbaked and a repeat-Paulo’s, Saint Louis Rey Mission where the bells peeled at dusk and the cardboard Pope made a cameo, a pier-side evening back behind the amphitheater where it all started, and a hop up to the Harbor where my father spotted bright Garibaldis, spokesfish of San Diego, while my mother and I took 1000 photos trying to capture a single joke, and among the rest of harbor traffic, one seal barked, one pelican skimmed, 24 locals rowed six crew boats, one buoy bobbed and one sun set, on the day, the trip, the Easter ’18. I stinkin love these people and will never understand the grace of God to give us, one with another, all He continues to give. What richness of life, rinsing beach sand off my feet with tap water in a Fiji bottle like I used to when I lived here, while tired happy parents tucked into my jeep and said ‘let’s go home.’

That word used to make me sad with its weighted necklace of distance. Lord willing, it never will again.

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