In the moments before the dancers go on stage, before the music starts and the lights go on, I stand in the shadows thinking, ‘why this week?’
It’s the first ‘why’ moment I’ve had, and it surprises me somewhat.
And we dance.
I had been busy. I said that. There was the school stuff, and the TAFE stuff, and almost most important of all — the dance stuff. Not that I had anything to do with the dancing, but the production branched out into drama this year, and they were my words being read by the actors. I was supposed to be directing that part of the show. A second-time director (first time in a long-time), who had missed the technical rehearsal because instead of hearing lines read, I was planning a eulogy.
I had been putting all the things in boxes. I don’t cope well with stress, but I had been doing ok. There was the school box. The mum box. The TAFE box. The dance box. And then… the Dad box. The grief box. Grief doesn’t like living in a box. It doesn’t sit nicely. It jumps out at you, when you see Toblerone on sale, or you take your child to the airport for a school trip. It creeps up when you least expect it. Like a slow, grey cloud it floats out of the box’s cracks until it settles on you like a shroud.
And so it settled, as I stood on the side of the stage and said, ‘Why God? Why? Why this week?’
Not ‘why did he die?’ I don’t ask that question. He was elderly, he was ready, he was peaceful in the end and died the way he would have wanted. I did not ask why for that.
Just, why now.
Why, when I cannot fall apart? Why, when 60ish dancers are about to take the stage as well as the 10 actors who need to stand behind wine box forts, and run behind cardboard trees? Why is the concert now? Why, couldn’t it have been later?
Why does this box overflow and leave me standing here, trying not to drown in sorrow, and wishing I could just fall apart?
And we dance.
After dad left, a few weeks ago, after he had visited, well in health, and more or less himself until that ridiculous virus that ended up becoming so much more, I sat in my lounge room and played music on my phone. A song came on Spotify; a song about dancing. I don’t dance; I’ve said it before, but oh, I loved the lyrics of this song. I’m not going to hide it; it’s a Christian song from Bethel Church in California. We sing lots of their stuff at church, but not this one. I hadn’t heard this song before. This song about dancing.
And then I forgot it. Just for a bit. With all the other noise, it slipped out. Other songs filled my head. The Elbow Dance. Some song about a finger being on the button. While Dad died, my sister’s text tone inspired the playing of Uptown Funk in my head, which was a tad inappropriate. 😉
But it was all about the dance.
We planned the funeral, and my stepmother asked about what Hymns to play at the service. Dad was traditional in his beliefs, and the service refelected it. Prayers from the Anglican Prayer book. Thees and thous from the Old King James Version of the Bible (other versions talk in more normal language), and at the end of it all, a hymn suggestion from my sister. Lord of the Dance.
Now in case you haven’t heard it — I didn’t remember it until it was sung — this is not a traditional funeral hymn. It’s, dare I say it, boppy. The minister even picked up her tambourine and passed out a box with baby rattles disguised as maracas so we could have a good old sing a long. Which we did.
‘Dance then, wherever you may be…’
Not exactly your usual fare for a traditional service. 🙂
But before all that… before that song and the service, and the heat from the power going out (some things in Darwin never change), there was me in a car. Reading a eulogy tapped out on my iPhone. Trying not to be sick. Wondering how to say those impossible words. And then, just in time, other words flowed through my mind.
You steady me.
Slow and sweet.
We sway, take the lead and I will follow.
Ready now, to close my eyes and just believe
That you won’t lead me where you don’t go.
Those words, in that moment, held me sure. Faith that in that hard moment, that impossitble time, I was not anywhere where my God would never go. Nor would I ever be.
On Friday night, the dancers went on stage, and I stood on the sidelines. I studied a run sheet and hid behind the fort to be close enough to prompt lines for small children. I watched the Elbow Dance and the Fingers on the Button, and I bopped along to Uptown Funk. The music swelled, and I moved with it, that shroud of grief ever-present, refusing to go back in its box. Dad’s death meaning I could never tell him how well it went, or that Bailey remembered all his lines, or that Taylah and Bridie danced beautifully. That I saw those words come to life, and people clapped and cheered, and maybe — hopefully, took the message home. A message of hope and heroics and pushing through the things that would get you down.
And that, towards the end, as Your Beautiful played, I finally understood that even though the ‘why’ would always escape me, the beauty of the theme never would. Because throughout the guilt of watching him leave and knowing things were not right, the pain of seeing him pass and not being able to make it easier, and the sorrow at knowing he was actually gone, I was never alone.
The music played.
The lyrics were sung.
And we danced.