And I would put them back in poetry, if I only knew how.

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.

Edward: Exactly.

-Big Fish

*K

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2 thoughts on “And I would put them back in poetry, if I only knew how.

  1. Kerrie, This is just beautiful. Thank you for putting down in words what so many of us feel. It’s been tragic to hear of our dear teachers’ untimely passings, and it’s awful to know that future classes will not know them or Pace as the way we know it.

    Sending lots of love your way.
    ~Tal

  2. Kerrie, when you started out you may have been lost for words, but you’ve strung together here a beautiful piece that both captures the essence of the situation and celebrates their lives. As a parent of a Fine Arts Pace Student, watching and cheering all of you from the ‘side-lines’, as all of have raved about the character and personalities and interaction with these three, I find their sequential loss to be profound, yet not a coincidence—these are personalities who touched and changed all of you, who have made a deep and lasting ‘memory set’ to be carried with you the rest of your lives. Having experienced so many untimely losses in a life more than twice your age, it definitely seems at times the pain, the ache, or even an unexpected guilt, will just never thin out. Well, and said softly from the heart, it will and does lose its edge, but until it does, don’t stuff it, don’t deny the feelings, talk it out with the precious, specific set of others who were there, too. Your treasure is found in the intangible—these three are among those who will act as beacons of guidance, example, who will often inspire how you speak and serve for the rest of your days, all because of their unique service and words to you, in these, your times. We aren’t given more than we can bear, and they aren’t actually gone, totally…it’s just…different. They see and know your hearts. They know these beautifully chosen and ‘strung-together’ words above; they hear the blend of individual chords rising from each heart reading them, so that their greatest treasure is in seeing the impact, the positive and lasting effect they’ve had in the hearts and minds of all of you—they have become and are inspiration, a treasured necklace or song throughout a day, a natural promise to reach always higher, just because…they were so meaningful in your lives.
    Your writing here, Kerrie, has gone beyond formal poetry, simply because it expresses perfectly what is needed right now: the awareness, impact, and value Pat, Anne, and Chris individually had on each of you. To read this is poetry, for one who never met these three, yet who truly grieves just the same for the loss to your unique community. What is written here is a greater comfort to the heart and mind than a formal poem—it is perfect. Thank you.
    God Bless these three very effectual souls. God Bless every student, co-worker, and person who has gained by their talents, their forthright and consistent example, and their nurturing. The best is yet to come, in the essence and in the inspiring, very specific bits and pieces of them, to now be lived out through all of you, the grateful, who will never forget. Peace. ~Jo

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