Fancy Footwork in a Space of Light

Fancy Footwork in a Space of Light



I feel like a different person.

It’s as if I’ve stepped into a new body.

I know I will never be the same.

Being alive is hard lately. People often ask me if I’m doing better yet and I’m certain I disappoint them. I place a high value on honesty. Still, I’m learning not everyone is up for it and so I sometimes “adjust” (suck it up).

For several days we pored over family videos so that we could give Joey’s friends what they had requested—footage of his young life—to provide a visual to the audio. They had written a song for him.

This was a tough assignment.

That said, in the process, I did come across a rather ridiculous video of myself spontaneously busting a move when I began performing a freestyle dance-skate to Hand Jive. You see Joey skate up, steal my fancy footwork thunder, and then my attention is drawn to Cassie, who has fallen from across the rink.

Seeing this video caused me to take a breather from my tears. I reminded myself of Elaine dancing on Seinfeld. I not only felt my face morph into a smile, I heard myself chuckle. Did I recognize that brazen, neon-clad woman? Is this a glimmer of hope?

It was a lifetime ago.

Oh, my lord if I had known then what I know now.

When I really want to get something into my heart bones, I will listen to a perpetual loop as I ride my bike: Lately, it’s “It is Well With My Soul,”  a “there’s more to come” sermon by my favorite big-brain-big-heart guy, Megan Devine’s It’s OK That You’re Not OK audiobook, and specifically the final chapter of her book. I wish I could make everyone read that last chapter, and get it into their heart bones. It would help me, thanks.

Devine quotes one of her students who wrote about the death of her husband, Richard:

“Because I am held in love, this is the blessing I wish for myself: for the grace to look what has happened in the eye and accept the way it was, the way it is, the way we were, and the way we are; the grace to live with the way things are now; the courage to get up in the morning; the capacity to look at a bullfinch on the bird table or the full moon or the slant of the sun on St. Catherine’s playing field behind our house and to know there is both goodness and pain in the world, and that I am part of both.

Because I am held in love, this is my blessing for myself: to be in this space of light, however small it is, however filled with pain, each day, and to hold at bay the ravening maelstrom of chaos and darkness and disintegration of self that lurks and grabs outside this space of love. Little by little, to integrate the pain and rage and loss with love, and to overcome the darkness with light. Soft slanting sunlight, not the harsh glare of electricity, but gentle light that reveals, and also beautifies, both the whole and the broken.

Because I am held in love—in your love, Richard, and in god’s love—this is my blessing for myself: to accept myself as I am, to love myself, forgive myself and allow myself to grow. To find a way of being in this world without you, sustained by love.”

I listened to the final chapter loop today, so I heard this student’s quote countless times. Of course, her references to light made me think of Joey and the song, Beam of Light.

A few days ago, I caught a snippet on social media of a Michael J. Fox interview and I keep thinking about it. He says, “I recognize how hard this is for people, I recognize how hard this is for me. But I have a certain set of skills that allow me to deal with this stuff and I realize with gratitude…optimism is sustainable. If you can find something to be grateful for and something to look forward to, then you carry on.”

Notice how he tells the truth of his pain and he figures out a way to carry on. Part of me hesitates to include his clip because there is a risk of interpretation or spin—and that it could feed into denial, reductionistic platitudes, and toxic positivity that’s all the rage in our grief-illiterate culture’s talking points.

I think my perpetual-loop-listening is helping me attain a “certain set of skills,” to carry, as Megan Devine writes, what cannot be fixed. And what Michael J. Fox said, to carry on.

At least that is my hope, my prayer.

To find a way of living in this world without him–sustained by Love.

A few days after Joey died, my grandson, four-year-old Brooks set up an elaborate reading nook for us. It was a surprise–and the surprise was truly all mine–I couldn’t believe he had arranged the entire thing himself, complete with a backrest for his Gaga (me). He presented the book to me, we settled in inside a dome, and I began to read. I lost all composure when I got to these words:

“Is that the end?”

“That’s the end of Harry and Winnie’s story,” I said.

“But I don’t want it to be over,” said Cole.

“Sometimes,” I said, “you have to let one story end so the next one can begin.”

“How do you know when that will happen?”

“You don’t,” I said. “Which is why you should always carry on.”

In the early days after our loss, I was gifted the daily reading book, Grief One Day at a Time by a dear friend. Today’s passage resonated deep into my heart bones—it provided a glimmer of hope that down the road—if I keep peddling, keep loop-listening—the darkness will be overcome by light—when my foreground becomes my background.

Look out Ice Capades, I may just get back out on that ice and dance again.

The tough assignment was worth every tear. The video and song are our family’s treasure. At the end of the video at the 4:48 and 4:58 marks, you’ll see a beam of light over the surf in the shape of an arrow, pointing to heaven. A trajectory of glory. Twice. Just in case you missed it the first time.

Maybe that’s just God doing His fancy footwork–and beaming His light.