Death of a Blog Reader

I never got a chance to meet Mildred Gordon, but she became a dear friend.

About a year ago, I noticed that she was liking all my blog posts on my Facebook page. Didn’t know who she was or why she had liked my page. I didn’t know why she read my blog posts, but every day, I got a notice from FB that “Mildred Gordon” had liked my post. I didn’t think she ever left comments, but one day (I’m ashamed to admit that it took me a long time) I realized that the woman named “sumalama” who left comments on my blog was the same as the woman on Facebook who “liked” my posts.

geraniumsShe became one of my staunchest supporters, liked the idea of my embracing adventure, loved that I danced. She offered me a couch whenever I needed one.

To be honest, although I “knew” her, I didn’t know much about her, just what I gleaned from her comments. She once commented that someone had recommended she read my grief posts, and she was glad they did. And so our connection began.

Another time, she wrote: “Pat Bertram, you matter because when I read your blog posts I can forget about my problems and just get lost in your words. Thank you. Please keep writing!” Later, through other comments, I got an inkling of what those problems were: “Friends and family are getting me through metastasis bone cancer. Wish they weren’t so sad for me…I’ve lived a long and happy and adventurous life!”

“Dance for you is what Tai Chi is for me. Even though I can no longer do it, just thinking of the different forms calms me, relaxes me, brings me peace. Lying in my bed, I can imagine myself flowing through the forms, like a slow motion dance, and I am one with it.”

And I learned a bit about her adventures: “Pat, one step at a time. I have started over many times and that’s how I’ve always done it. And I’ve done it alone, with small children. I am not worried about you, now that you have the dance to feed your being.

The kids and I lived homeless in another country for 6 months, many years ago when they were 5, 4, and a newborn. It wasn’t easy. But we survived. And are the better for it. And now this new journey of mine, with cancer, has my friends worried/bothered for me like your friends are for you.

Let them worry, let them be bothered. It’s their choice. Me? I am truly excited for you and can hardly wait to see what your blog shares about the new life you will form!

Best of luck and have fun! Hugs, Millie

And then suddenly, the “like”s and comments stopped. Worried, I emailed her, using the email address she’d used for WordPress comments, but got no response. I didn’t really expect any — any time I’d contacted someone via such an email, I got no reply, as if perhaps I had stepped over a boundary I shouldn’t have.

Today I checked her Facebook profile, hoping to find an explanation. And I did.

Mildred died on May 20th. A celebration of her life was held on May 31st, while I was dancing on stage. Although I didn’t know about the service at the time, my dancing was a much better memorial to her than the tears that are now blurring my eyes.

I’m sorry I never got to meet ”sumalama.” (Sorry I never asked what that meant.) But I am so very glad we connected.

Thank you, Millie, for enriching my life. Best of luck and have fun! Hugs, Pat

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

To Dance Is to Live

At lunch after a dance class a couple of days ago, a friend and I were discussing why we don’t have bucket lists. We agreed there are too many things in the world that either we’re not aware of, or if we are aware of the things, we’re not aware that we would like to try them.

For example, we’re both taking dance classes, which have become lifesavers to us. (Like me, she’d been mired in grief and took dancing as a way of moving on with her life.) Neither of us ever had such an inclination before, so dancing would never have been on our bucket lists. I’m not even much for dancing around the house, though for a while, I did what I called “dance therapy” in an effort to overcome the lingering grief after the death of Jeff, my life mate/soul mate. This therapy worked to a certain extent, but . . . I don’t know . . . maybe it was too soon, maybe the songs were too sad, maybe it was simply that I didn’t know how to dance.

I took therapy yoga for a whileUntitled-2, which did help with grief. When those classes were canceled after the teacher got an offer of a fantastic job, I played around with learning Tai Chi, which incidentally was something that would have been on my bucket list since I’d always wanted to do it, but I didn’t feel the connection with Tai Chi that I’d expected. And it must not have been in the cards for me anyway. When I went to sign up for classes after the free introductory lessons were over, I found the office closed. (They are closed every other Friday, but since they never said which was the other other Friday, I had no way of knowing what the right day would have been.)

A few days after my aborted attempt to sign up for Tai Chi, I’d planned to meet a friend for lunch. As I waited for her, I paced the sidewalk in front of the row of shops, and there I saw a dance studio. On a whim, I stopped in to see if classes were being offered to adults, what the classes were, and how much they cost. The prices were so cheap it seemed a shame not to try at least one of the classes before I settled for Tai Chi. The only class that didn’t need any props or special clothes was jazz, so that’s what I started with.

And I came alive.

In an effort to find a renewed interest in life, I’d been doing many things I would never have had a chance to do before Jeff’s death, but everything I did was like dropping pebbles in the sand of grief. Although I enjoyed my excursions and activities while I was doing them, none of that momentary happiness rippled through the rest of my life. Yoga did to a certain extent, but with dance . . . oh my. Ripples galore.

By the middle of the following month, I was taking ballet, Egyptian belly dance, tap, and Hawaiian in addition to jazz, and recently I started Tahitian.

Dancing is hard for me. I’m not naturally rhythmic, not naturally musically inclined, not naturally poised or balanced. Nor am I one for doing anything in a group. (Do I need to mention that I am far from having a dancer’s body?) And yet, it was love at first . . . not sight. Feel maybe.

A lot of the joy of dancing for me comes from learning something completely new, since more than anything I love to learn, but it’s the whole of the dance experience I’m enamored with — the music, the various steps, the choreography, dancing as one with the rest of the group, the other women in the class. Most of the women are a lot older than I am, but they are a heck of a lot more graceful and agile. Actually, they are a heck of a lot more graceful and agile than most women half my age.

It seems strange now that I’ve never mentioned my dance classes on this blog, but since I also once took a couple of exercise classes at the same studio, I’ve just lumped all the activity under “exercise classes.” Dancing seemed too sacred almost to use for blog fodder.

So why am I mentioning it now? The teacher, a remarkable woman just a few years short of eighty, is always having to explain to her family why she continues to teach. (You know how older people are often called “spry”? That is not a word you could ever use to describe her. To see her dance, you’d never guess her age. She dances like a girl, looks like she’s in her forties, and is still beautiful.)

Because she was born two minutes before midnight on Friday the thirteen, she laughingly calls herself a witch. And she is — a good witch with remarkable powers of bringing people to life. Bringing people happiness. Bringing people dance.

As Snoopy says, “To dance is to live. To live is to dance.”

I know you’re reading this, Ms. Cicy. So — thank you for teaching me a new way of living.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.