There are many situations where I find myself at a loss for words. I opened Facebook at work, just to glimpse for a minute, and saw the news of Pat Woodward’s passing. I didn’t know what to do. Or say. Part of me thought it must have been a joke. I read the status and said to myself “This cannot be real.”
I just can’t find the right words. The loss of Pat, of Anne Lommel, of Chris Thomas. Chris kept us humble, Anne kept us fabulous, and Pat made sure we were there at all. I cannot imagine the theater department at Pace University without these people. And what I find totally heartbreaking? That there will be class after class after class of students who will never know them. That is one of the greatest injustices of them all.
And on the flipside, one of my greatest gifts is that I did know them. I feel lucky to have been taught, dressed, coached, excused, helped, yelled at, and counseled by them. I wouldn’t give back the extra hours I spent in the costume shop because I just could not sew, the lunches I spent with Kadey chatting with Chris, or the seemingly endless string of e-mails between myself and Pat where I was told over and over that, yes, I needed to take all of these AOKs, no I can’t get out of them, but yes, I am going to graduate on time if I just take public speaking over the summer.
I am grateful for the conversations, the sarcastic quips, and the endless hours of work that always produced something more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. I’ll never forget Anne bringing me my costume for the opening scene of Carousel: the bright yellow leotard and the ornate headpiece, telling me to trust her. I became a part of a human carousel, and at the end, I couldn’t have imagined it any other way.
Life keeps moving on. We can’t change that. The best we can do is to continue to live our lives, take what we’ve learned from them, and every now and then pay tribute. What I find indescribably amazing is the way we all come together to share stories, photos, memories, and lessons. That is the impact and legacy of a truly great teacher and person.
So maybe I can’t find the right words, but I think that’s because they don’t really exist. There are no words that communicate profound loss. But there are words that celebrate, words that remember, words that form thoughts, ideas, and creations that are inspired by those who left us too soon. Those are the words they would want us to use.
Will: As we get close to the river, we see that everybody is already there. And I mean everyone…It’s unbelievable.
Edward: The story of my life.
Will: And the strange thing is, there’s not a sad face to be found, everyone is just so glad to see you. And send you off right. You become what you always were…A very big fish. And that’s how it happens.