We celebrated Hilary’s birthday last Thursday.  I won’t mention the number—suffice it to say her seventh decade is in the rear-view mirror. 

With the quarantine and all, a surprise party was out of the question.  I decided to create a virtual Birthday Card for Hilary and asked family and friends to send birthday messages, videos and favorite photos.  I loaded them all into Microsoft Sway which is super-easy to use and creates a nice-looking finished product. 

As I was poring through some of our photos, I got a tug to go up into our attic and dive into some boxes and grocery bags stuffed with photos I’ve set aside in the “I’ll get to those someday” pile.  I was handsomely rewarded.

One of the first things I found was an album Hilary’s mother, Virginia, had put together for her middle daughter.  It was an Absolute Treasure Trove, with photos of Hilary as a baby and young child growing up in Chicago.  Photos I’d never seen before. 

I also found some other photos from the trip Hilary, Jimmy and I took to Zion National Park in April of 2008.  Our last adventure with him.  One afternoon it was just Jimmy and me driving around Springdale, just outside the park.  I spotted an old panel truck abandoned in a field.   As many of you know, I have an affinity for Jameses and old trucks, so we pulled over. 

One of my favorite photos of Jimmy is the one I took of him that afternoon seated on the passenger door step. 

That photo together with these two are featured in the story Dreams Guitars and Highways and prominently displayed on a wall in  our home office.

James Taylor

Deep in the bag was another one from that photo shoot—one that I didn’t remember taking or ever seeing before.  Surely, I made him pose for it.  I’ve incorporated several other photos from that trip into our book and other posts.  It’s not like I haven’t been through those photographs.  But this one was elusive, waiting patiently—or not—for the right moment, I suppose.  

I uploaded that one, several from Virginia’s album and way too many others into the Birthday Card which essentially turned into Hilary’s Life Story. 

The morning of her birthday, I brought my lap tap into our kitchen and we scrolled through her “Card.”   When we landed on the photo from Zion, Hilary exclaimed,

Where did this come from?   Where did you find it?

I explained.

She observed.

“He’s on the other side.” 

“Yes, he is.”

We both were both crying at this point.  

On the other side

Around two in the afternoon, Hilary and I took a walk on our recently reopened Solana Beach.

Our old friends, Frank and Penny, swung by later and dropped off an ice-cold bottle of Taitttinger champagne.   Well, we couldn’t let it get warm.

Brittany, Ryan and the boys came over at 5:30.   They brought more champagne, balloons, decorations and dinner from their favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant, Rosina’s.  It was a beautiful evening, the light and sunset were spectacular, and we felt Jimmy’s presence and influence the entire evening.  

Hilary and Brittany



Most notable was how he took over the music.   Moments before Brittany’s crew arrived, I turned on the Yacht Rock station on Pandora.   The first song, randomly selected by the app, was the Paul McCartney/Beatles song Let It Be.   Hilary shot me a “Did you do that” look, and I just shrugged. 

Several years ago she researched the origins of this deeply impactful song for her.

I was surprised to learn that “Mother Mary” wasn’t the Mother of Jesus, as most people assume. Paul’s mother, also named Mary, died of lung cancer when Paul was fourteen. During a difficult time in his life years later, he had a vivid dream that “my mother Mary came to me and whispered words of wisdom, ‘It will be alright, just let it be, let it be.’” He said that when he awoke from this dream, he got up and wrote down the words to the song.

Hilary experienced a very powerful synchronicity with that song in 2009 on our barge excursion on the canals in Belgium.   She wrote this story about it. 

Hunter serving the first course
Wyatt (the glasses-nice touch-were his idea)

It was Brittany’s brilliant idea for Wyatt and Hunter to be waiters. They had a blast.   As they took orders and brought our courses, they weaved in front of the painting by Rod Knutson that has hung in our dining room since 2006.   Except for the boys, of course, we are all in the painting—Ryan, on the left, and Jimmy, second from the right, are waiters. 

L to R; Shepherd unknown, waiter Ryan, Hilary’s parents Jim and Virginia, Brittany, Casey, Hilary, Casey’s mother Barbara, Jimmy and unknown

The light from the sunset lit Jimmy up.  Not as dramatic as that night in 2013, but still pretty good.   Brittany hadn’t given any thought to the painting when she envisioned the next generation of waiters working the party.   The juxtaposition of Jimmy watching over his nephews was surreal.

Uncle Jimmy looking over Wyatt’s shoulder

At one point when we were exclaiming our amazement at Jimmy’s knack for showing up and taking over at these momentous occasions, a Todd Rundgren song came on Pandora.   I leapt up to take a photo of the playlist on the TV Screen.   The song: HELLO, IT’S ME.


But the capper, the complete show-stopper, “OK WE GET IT,” moment came when Brittany and the waitstaff brought out the Birthday Cake.   It’s about 2:20 minutes into the video.   A song by Ambrosia is playing in the background on Pandora.  

Wait for it…..

A beautiful evening and celebration for a most deserving woman. 

P.S. The waitstaff were tipped handsomely.

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Author Bios

Write Me Something Beautiful Authors - Casey and Jimmy Gauntt

Casey Gauntt

is a retired attorney and former senior executive of a major San Diego real estate company. He lives in Solana Beach, California, with his wife, Hilary. Casey grew up in Itasca, Illinois, graduated Lake Park High School in 1968, and received B.S., JD and MBA degrees from the University of Southern California.

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Jimmy Gauntt

was born and raised in Solana Beach and graduated from Torrey Pines High School in 2002.   A prestigious Trustee Scholar at the University of Southern California, he majored in English and Spanish. He authored six plays, five screenplays, and a multitude of poems and short stories. Beginning in 2010, the USC English Department annually bestows the Jimmy Gauntt Memorial Award—aka “The Jimmy”—to the top graduates in English.  Jimmy passed over to the other side in 2008 at age 24.

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