I had the honor of attending the Memorial Service for L. Pierce Carson on June 26. Pierce was a friend from the time I was 21 years old, and started attending the Mondavi Summer Concert series. Pierce would arrive early to set up several large blankets in front of the stage. Every week for over 20 years, a large group of us would have the best seats in the house.
At his service, a number of friends gave moving tributes to the wonderful human being that was Pierce Carson. I wanted to tell a story that represented Pierce. I wasn’t sure that I could tell it without crying, so I decided to write it instead.
We were attending the Sarah Vaughan concert. It was a beautiful evening with sunset imminent. Above, the western hills behind the Robert Mondavi winery were graced with large, puffy, white clouds. Rays of light from the sun behind the clouds pierced (no pun intended) them, with splays of golden light radiating to the vineyards beneath. It was a striking sunset that the entire audience appreciated. Appropriately, Sarah started singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The beginning phrase is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow, birds fly...”
Just as she said, “birds fly,” hundreds of swallows erupted from the winery bell tower. They flew over the crowd, circling, carefree. The moment the song ended, the birds rapidly dispersed, as if on cue. Both Ms. Vaughan and the audience were stunned. She said, “What just happened?” There was no answer.
It was one of those transcendent moments that occur at random throughout one’s life; moments that we never forget. For me, that evening will forever be tied with the memory of an amazing person, the man I was honored to call friend, Pierce Carson.