Thursday, April 9, 2009
a story we need to keep
I try not to do posts with lots and lots of words. I like to accent the words with an appropriate number of suitable photographs and keep each post interesting.
Yet here is a post, a story if you will, with mostly words and only one photograph. I posted this story on another blog as a guest writer a week or so ago. That post was initially going to be about the joy of creativity, but I got stuck in writing it up - and this story just would not stay out of my head - or out of the post. When I finally gave in to writing it, the words poured out of me.
So here it is, just as I wrote it the first time. To everyone, from us.
SO, my daughter went off to a Fine Arts Academy for Contemporary Dance (a boarding school by any other name) in August, the week after she turned 16. It was a very hard time for her and for me. We were very close, and though we both knew that this was an incredible opportunity for her, we had a very difficult time being apart. The first night was the worst, and she called me several times, whispering into the phone so that her roommate wouldn’t be disturbed. She cried, but didn’t want me to come and get her. I cried too, but not when we were talking. I second guessed the decision to send her away, and rode an emotional roller coaster for the next several weeks.
My daughter was determined and stuck it out, and though she didn’t stop missing home for a moment, she made new friends, learned a new routine, began to understand her teachers, and started to dance. The dance brought her great joy although the discipline required made her grumble and complain. She was inspired by the upper classmen though, and worked hard to grow. She learned about the routine of the dorm and settled quickly into a rhythm of learning and living and laughing. All the things you want for your children!
In October, she told me about auditioning for pieces that were choreographed by upper classmen, and how excited she was to get some opportunities to perform. She was immersed in the creative and learning process (are they separate? maybe it is all one process.) and was very happy.
When she came home at the end of November for a long weekend at Thanksgiving, she was VERY EXCITED. I picked her up and she talked most of the way home. She told me about a boy, a college senior in the Contemporary Dance program, that was a beautiful and breathtaking dancer. She certainly didn’t have any classes with him, but she had seen him perform once and had been very inspired. Right before break her teacher told her that she was actually going to have the opportunity to dance with him in a piece they would be learning in December, to be performed before Christmas. She was absolutely thrilled to be chosen to perform, and even more thrilled to have a chance to learn from someone so astounding. She talked about how he danced – so strong and graceful – and about how perfect his technique was. It made her want to practice and stretch and grow better NOW.
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and when I drove her back to school and dropped her off it was very different from the first time. She had a big smile and a wave, and didn’t need any help into the dorm. She immediately saw friends and they were laughing and talking before I drove from the parking lot.
I was about 20 minutes away when the cell phone rang. It was my daughter, and she was sobbing.
When she and her roommate got onto their hall (up the three flights of steps with their bags dragging behind them), they noticed papers stuck on every room door. Some announcement, they thought as they rushed down the hall to their little room-haven. When they got to their door they unlocked it and pulled the announcement off the door.
They both stood and read. The paper explained that the young man, the senior, the inspiring dancer that everyone knew from his performances, had committed suicide in his dorm room over the Thanksgiving holiday.
My daughter was filled with grief. Overcome. Bowed down. It brings tears to my eyes now, 7 years later, remembering our conversation and what she went through. She had never met this boy. I had never met this boy. But in my mind was the image of his dance, strong, muscled, perfect technique. In her mind was the actual memory. I was filled with grief.
The entire school student body felt the impact of the young man’s passing, and December was a more somber time than we ever expected. When Christmas break came, though, I felt strongly that we needed to have some serious conversations about what had happened. We talked then, and truly, we talked for the next several years. My daughter worked through this loss in her dance and when SHE was a senior, she danced in a piece dedicated to this young man – and it was a phenomenal and emotional experience.
Trying to make sense of the senseless must be a human foible, but we did come away from all this with a lesson that reminds us of this young man.
Our lesson, that neither my daughter nor I ever forget – You can never know the impact that your life has on another person. You may never even meet them, you may never see them, you may never know that they saw you. Your interactions may be slight, may not be in person, may be oblique. But your influence and contribution to the world and the lives of others is greater than you know, your impact ripples out from your life touching those you see and even those you don’t.
Your gift is grander than you ever imagine. So share it, and give it, and make your impact on the world.