My Lion

On a hot summer day in August 2003, I found myself wandering the streets of Lucerne, Switzerland with my ridiculously heavy backpack searching for something. The significance of what we were doing that afternoon wouldn’t hit me until years later, but we were on a mission.

The guide book said it was close. The guide book said we had plenty of time to see this “Lucerne must see” before we caught the next train out of town on our eternal mission to find cooler weather. The guide book said a lot of things, and we were sticking to that guide book. Turn left, go right, cross a bridge, climb a hill, go left again. Apparently the guide book downplayed how far this thing actually was.

The sweat rolled from our backs, down our faces, and we were all growing tired and grumpy. The departure time of the first train came and went, yet continued in search of the elusive prize. We had put our foot down, we weren’t leaving this city until we got to see what we were looking for. The search continued down alleys, through parks, down hills, back up hills.

And finally, we turned down a tiny street and saw it. It wasn’t much, especially compared to what we had seen over the previous 14 days. It was kind of hidden away behind some ivy that had surrounded it on all sides. But there it was in all its glory, the prize at the end of our search. In front of us was a stone mural of a lion built into the hillside. Who knows who carved it, I didn’t even think I reached for my camera, but I will always remember that moment. We turned and looked at each other in silence for what seemed like minutes.

Finally, Ted broke that silence and said what we were all were thinking.

“OK, we’ve found the lion. Can we go now?”

In the weeks that followed, we continued our journey through Europe seeking out and discovering more “lions” in every place that we stopped. The Eiffel Tower, the Spanish tomato fight, leaning towers, paintings, churches, and even what is probably the only trailer park in Venice. Every time we felt we had exhausted what we needed from a place, one of us would say those same words.

In the years that followed, the “lions” became degrees, careers, families and so many adventures its hard for me to even believe my eyes as I scroll through the hundred of pictures we share. In 2008, I finally lured him to Seattle with the promise of helping him find the most elusive of all lions, one I thought he could never find in Orange County.

One night, we cracked open one of the many bottles (and boxes) of wine we shared over the years, he told me he thought he had found that elusive “lion”, and her name was Katie. I watched over the next few years as Ted and Katie went on their own adventures, continuing to search for their own lions. And while we haven’t been on any lion hunts recently, we knew that anytime one of us needed each other, we would be there, lion-hunting gear in hand.

I didn’t understand the true significance of that tiny moment from the summer of 2003 until a couple years ago. I was out hunting lions in some foreign city with my own partners Giulia and Gemma, and we were all getting tired and hungry. But we kept looking, and finally we found it. Thats when my wife turned to my daughter and said “OK, we found the lion, we can go now”. I smiled down at my daughter and thought of that moment long ago, just like I do every time someone mentions finding a lion.

What I came to understand is that the lion is life. Its a life full of amazing adventures, brilliant friends, strong families, fulfilling careers, and most of all, it is a life of love.

Ted was one of the greatest lions I have found, and now my dear friend, you can go. I’ll miss you, and don’t you worry about the lions you’ve left behind, we’ll find you again someday.