What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stranger

A Final Farewell August 4, 2014

A few weeks ago, an actor I have worked with in the past put a post up on Facebook. She had been diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Her case was advanced, and she would soon have to delete her Facebook account. She said not to feel sorry for her. She had had an amazing life.

Part of me wants to say that she was a great friend and mentor and that the thought of losing her was devastating. But that would be a lie, and she deserves better than that. We did something like 160 performances together. We even lived together for awhile, but we were never close. I was her dance captain, and she had problems remembering her spacing and choreography, as minimal as it was. I couldn’t understand how someone could be in the business for that long and not know how to stand on eight.

None of us knew, not even her, that she was at the early stages of her illness. So, I gave her the same note over and over again, getting more frustrated every time. I’d like to say I was a ray of sunshine while I did it, but we all know I get a little tetchy sometimes. I don’t think she ever took offense. She was too happy to be on stage to care what I thought.

When she announced her social death and said she was signing off from all correspondence, people posted, saying “keep your head up,” and “keep fighting. You’ll get better.” But the reality is, better couldn’t happen. Maybe not as much pain, maybe a bit of clarity, but not better. Not singing on stage. That’s not how the world works. She wouldn’t go gently into the night. But it was coming for her, and she’d accepted that. It was a long goodbye she’d been saying to herself. Her body and her mind were going. She was aware and wanted to say goodbye while she still had the words to do it.

I’ve been inviting my Facebook friends to a book release event, and I had to be very careful not to invite her. Not because I thought she wouldn’t support me, but because the event is after her sign off date, and it seemed cruel to taunt her with things after her account deletion.

She passed away a few days ago. I feel awful saying that I’m glad she went quickly, but it’s true. She was a woman who lived for others. Being trapped alone in a broken body just didn’t suit her.

So here’s a sign off: to the wonderful woman who drove me nuts. You’re right. You have had an amazing life full of adventure. You’ve lived well. You’ve had more adventures than most ever will. Rest well.


One Response to “A Final Farewell”

  1. No one knows when the report will come back as invasive cancer, or dementia, or a paralyzing stroke. We need to be kind – remember the possibilities are that someone is not functioning as well as they used to.

    You have no idea how timely this is.

    Your tribute is perfect: warts and all is how we all should be remembered, as we were.

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