Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Star Danced

My very good friend, Sue, was a dancer and a teacher. She was incredibly gifted. When people speak of her they very often speak in terms of light. "She was a bright light in my day," they say. "She lit up the room when she walked in." There was "a sparkle to her, a twinkle in her eye," a joyous quality that eludes us without these references to sunshine and starlight. And often, in these recent days as I've talked to friends, the phrase is repeated: a light has gone out in the world. A bright light, people say with sadness, is extinguished, gone, forever lost to darkness.

Sue did sparkle, didn't she? It is the measure of our love for her and the force of her personality that this word is so strongly identified with a woman who seemed, over the years, to change very little. Her hair was always a cap of gleaming curls. Her skin scrubbed fresh and kissed with freckles. Her blue eyes always full of winking, shining merriment.

Where was this darkness that claimed her? How could we have missed it? How could anyone so bright, so full of laughter and good wishes for her world, be surrounded by something so insidious and harmful without warning signs, bells, whistles, glaring flashes of ominous danger?

None of us know. Perhaps Sandy, her love and dearest companion, has a greater sense of the quiet places in Sue that none of us knew. We will certainly need to be there for Sandy as she faces life in a dimmer place. We certainly owe her our gratitude for being the person who acknowledged Sue's darkness, embraced it, and loved it as part of the person we did not know as well as we thought. This is true love, the difficult kind, that loves not just the brilliant facets of a soul where candlelight glances over them, but loves the deep and nuanced shades, too. What a great comfort it is to know Sue had such a rich and precious gift in her time with us.

In these past weeks, long days filled with reflection since I heard of Sue's death, I've thought almost constantly of those bright words, those oft invoked images and phrases. I've thought about stars. Great, distant balls of riotous fire. Stars twinkle because the Earth's atmosphere causes refractions when the light passes through varying densities. Terribly scientific, but it's interesting... the starlight bends and scatters, so the star twinkles. Those dazzling bits of winking beauty we see each night are only visible because of the darkness. They are growing ever distant, hurtling away from their birthplace at astonishing speed.

Perhaps the metaphor, though we may not realize it, is more apt than we imagined. The darkness was always there, throwing Sue's sparkling magic into brilliant flashes for us to see. We focused on the light. It's human nature to do so. And like those stars rushing off to places none of us can imagine, beyond our sight, past the place where our small position in the greater scheme of all that flows outward from the first moment of creation, Sue is rushing off to someplace else. She didn't have an easy journey, this shimmering sister of ours. She left her home and had to find her own place in a world resistant to who she was, the essence of her spirit. So people saw her through the filter of their own experience, bent the light, scattered it, made it something they could accept as it rushed away from narrow gazes.

Sue and I used to absolutely wallow in good Shakespearean theater. Well, we wallowed in the bad stuff, too. If nothing else it made us laugh, and laughter so often seemed to be her default position. In those wonderful lines, timeless turns of phrase that move generations beyond the life of an Elizabethan poet and playwright, there are astonishing glimpses of truth. One of Sue's favorite plays is my own favorite as well. I find these lines keep running through my head. In Much Ado About Nothing, Don Pedro teases Beatrice, that most laughing and merry of ladies:

Don Pedro: Your silence most offends me, and to be merry best becomes you for out o' question you were born in a merry hour.

And she responds in a rare sober moment:

Beatrice: No, sure, my lord, my mother cried; but then there was a star danced, and under that was I born.

There's our Sue. Born into a world that didn't completely understand her. Some could never accept her. Orphaned by intolerance, Sue still managed to shine against the darkness, sparkle in spite of a journey that was, though we did not know it then, speeding her away from us in a stunning, silent rush. She touched us with her light. We were fascinated by her twinkle and shine. Sue was born into a place that had to bend her, tip her, reshape her to see her beauty. She came from a place of sadness, darkness, and rejection. But a star danced, and she was born.

Her light has not gone out. Never say so, friends. She's rushing, racing, flying onward past the farthest reaches of our vision, but her star is still dancing. Sue shines on, and always will, in a place none of us can follow for now. But we can watch the skies, and catch glimpses of her brilliance still lighting small parts of the sky.

I look to the skies for your light, Sue. I look to your example of brightness and joy, and I take comfort in the gleam of the stars that have called you, much too soon, home.

3 comments ]:[ Add your comment:

Heather said...

Olie, I just knew when it happened you'd find the right thing to say.

love you!

Jake said...

I hope I'm doing this right.

I have been thinking about you guys constantly and I miss you all. Just wanted to say that and I hope I see you in October.

Ellie McBride said...

This was so beautifully written, Chrissy!

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