August 01, 2015

Defining Moments: The Best Day of My Life

Melanie Bragg
My new Defining Moment during the Magna Carta Celebration in London

In June of 2015 I was honored to be a part of the GP Solo Division delegation that traveled to London to celebrate 800 years since Magna Carta was sealed at Runnymede, a meadow near Windsor Castle. Our 23-person group had many special events arranged by former GP Solo Chairs James Durant and Benes Aldana. I am forever grateful for all of the experiences we had, but during that very first evening in Bury St. Edmunds I had a defining moment that represents a monumental shift in my life. I call it “the best day of my life.”

Four years ago then Chair-Elect Captain Benes Aldana had his planning meeting in London. As chair of the Book Publications Board I was invited for the first time and attended. Planning was already underway for the Magna Carta event four years hence. We met Sir Robert, the London chair, and learned about the events to come. It did not dawn on me then that I would be back for the trip of a lifetime with James and Benes and a small group of amazing lawyers and friends.

In June, we spent a week in England. We experienced the history of the Magna Carta and celebrated the origins of the rule of law in England. And we gained an appreciation of how what happened in England affected the history of our jurisprudence leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I now have a greater understanding of the origins of the common law that forms the basis of our democracy and how every aspect of our daily lives is affected by these historic events.

When the trip was first announced, I wasn’t sure if I could go, but I knew I would do anything I could to attend. Of course I was very busy before I left, and I barely made it out in time due to a heavy caseload and hot items on the calendar. I boarded the plane at 6:25 p.m. and landed at Heathrow to meet the group the next morning. Sleeping on planes is not my thing, but I must have gotten some sleep on the flight because I felt great that morning. Excitement was in the air! Our adventure began!

At the airport, James and Benes dealt with the logistics. Because James had been stationed in England, he hooked our group up with some very special events. We boarded three vans to make the short trip to the quaint town, Bury St. Edmonds. Why Bury St. Edmonds? Because it is where the barons first met and decided to confront the king with their demands for change, which formed the basis of the Magna Carta some time later.

Margaret Charlesworth, the former Mayor of Bury St. Edmunds, was our host, and she and her husband, Roger, were delightful. It was clear from the beginning that we were welcome guests. Our most amazing adventure began with a tour of the cathedral led by the church’s public relations manager. We soaked in the beauty and majesty of the church, then went out into the grounds and enjoyed the gardens. We heard the interesting story of King John I and the legend of how he was beheaded during his murder. I was captivated by the legend that a lone wolf guarded the king’s head until it was found, keeping it safe from destruction by other predators. This was important because it was thought that to be buried without your head affected the afterlife of a person. Thus the king had a proper burial. This mystical tale spoke to me.

As we toured the gardens, I had the sense we walked on hallowed ground. The weather was perfect. It was sunny and warm; the grass was verdant green, and the flowers were in bloom. The force of history was omnipresent that serene day.

The townspeople went to great lengths to prepare for us. They were clearly excited to share their history with us and to enjoy our time together.

The entertainment portion of the evening began with champagne and appetizers served out in a cool garden space. The Morris Dancers, a group of women my age and older, performed traditional dance while the men played accordions and other instruments. Their costumes were brightly colored, and their pants had bells on them from the knees down. As I watched them dance, I was struck by the delight on their faces as they entertained us. They were having fun doing what they love, and their smiles lit a fire in my spirit.

It was a defining moment when I experienced the true joy and spirit of life in the eyes and faces of those dancers. In that moment I felt one with them and with all humankind. Joseph Campbell, author of The Power of Myth, would most likely describe it by saying that I felt the transcendence of the human spirit. We are all one. It was in my bliss spot, being the entertainer and the entertained at once. One with our group, one with the locals, and one with God.

That moment I said to myself, “This is the best day of my life.” It was a watershed moment, one I will never forget. I felt so valued, so received, so loved, and so in communication and harmony with the rhythm of life. I was able to receive the love imparted to me that day in a new and deeper way in part because of how good I felt and in part because of the shadow work I have been doing in the past year. My capacity to give love and receive love is enhanced. Whereas in the past the gift might have been received like a couple of drops in an empty copper chamber, on this day it was like drops of water cast into a roiling ocean—a vibrant and powerful ocean. My stamina had kicked in and I fully appreciated the great health I enjoy now.

 After the dance performance we went to the dining hall and enjoyed dinner where we mingled with the locals. There is nothing better than great conversation and good wine. When our plates were empty, our English people hosts gleefully announced we had just eaten kidneys and beef!

We left the next morning and enjoyed several days in London leading up to the events held at Runnymede on our last day. Margaret was there and said, “Well, I suppose you have had many other ‘best days of your life’ since you were in Bury St. Edmonds.” And I looked her in the eye and said, “Margaret, I have had many great and amazing days since I saw you in Bury St. Edmonds, but that truly was the best day in my life.”

The experience changed me. I am different. My capacity to love and be loved is deepened, and for that I am grateful. I know that the common connection we all have to one another is really the only reason to be alive and being close in that connection is the best feeling in the world.

So I ask you my friends, what is your defining moment? When you do you feel most at peace and in harmony with the world? Share it with me at Melanie@bragglawpc.com. Thank you!

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Melanie Bragg

Melanie Bragg has long enjoyed a reputation as one of Houston’s fiercest attorneys in her representation of children, the elderly, and mentally disadvantaged people.  Her firm, Bragg Law PC, is a general civil firm in Houston, Texas. She also writes and produces legal education programs through Legal Insight, Inc. (founded by Bragg in 1993). Her writing credits include HIPAA for the General Practitioner as well as the upcoming book Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul to be published by the American Bar Association (ABA) flagship division. When she is not writing, Melanie devotes her time to her work as chair of the Book Publications Board of the ABA Solo, Small Firm General Practice Division and sharing ideas with fellow authors. She can be reached at Melanie@bragglawpc.com.