THINK OF ME
(WHEN WE'VE SAID GOODBYE)
10 February 2003
I talked with Ned's best friend Greg about a month ago, offering him
condolences on the death of his
mother shortly before Thanksgiving. He told me that there would be a memorial planned
for Davis after the first of the year and said that his main concern was that it be
"classy." He wanted to do his mom proud.
Today he and his siblings (and their spouses) and his friends (e.g.,
Ned) exceeded beyond his wildest expectations. His mother would have been very proud.
The event was held on the stage of the Veterans Memorial Theatre,
the theatre where Susan had choreographed shows, designed lights, performed in the chorus,
and where her children developed a love of theatre. Greg, who gave up his life on the road
being on the light crew for Neil Diamond, Madonna, and Garth Brooks, among others, when
his children were born, now manages the Vets and the Varsity, Davis's other theatre.
I've never seen the theatre look so beautiful. The house was lit
dimly with red gels in the lights, adding a richness I'd never seen in that theatre. Large
photos of Susan hung from the ceiling.
Greg in front of a photo of himself
with his mother and Neil Diamond
There were chairs arranged on the stage facing the house seats. The
ubiqiutous ficus trees and a lovely floral arrangement decorated the front of the stage,
with tables scattered around on which were arranged articles from the magazines Susan ran,
a guest book, photos, programs from shows she'd choreographed, and a scrapbook of memories
from her retirement from the magazine she founded.
The memorial--which wasn't really a memorial (that had taken place
in November back east) was an opportunity for her west coast friends to remember what made
this lady special.
It began with a recording of "Think of Me" from Phantom
of the Opera. It was the perfect piece, and had me in tears before a word had
Greg, who admitted he was much more comfortable behind a light board
than in front of a group, talked about Susan's death--how she'd spend a productive day,
visited with her grandkids, bought Christmas presents and the ingredients for stuffing for
the Thanksgiving turkey, then went to bed and died in her sleep. He talked about the
progression of her multiple sclerosis in recent years and how he was at peace with her
death before the disease incapacitated her.
Others (including her other kids) talked about her career as a
dancer, her work in the theatre, the founding of the two magazines--Dance Teacher Now
and Stage Directions, both of which she ran out of her home she she could be at
home when the kids were growing up, which grew into national slick magazines of good
reputation which were bought out by a larger corporation when Susan retired.
They talked about her love of her grandkids and the fun she had with
them, while photos were projected on a screen at the back--Susan in a witch's hat with a
big grin, down on the floor playing with her grandkids...
A recording of her brother speaking at her memorial service
was played, while more photos were displayed--Susan with her baby brother, the two of them
growing up, meeting together as adults...pictures of a loving sibling relationship, while
the feeling were heard in the words her brother choked out on the recording.
At the conclusion of the formal remembrances, people got up to talk
about their own memories and you learned the kind of person she had been--the help she
gave to people, the jobs that grew into careers, the opportunities, the generosity.
There were people who commented on how happy they were that they had
told Susan, during her lifetime, of how much she meant to them and how grateful they were
to have her in their lives. Once again, we were reminded of the importance of not
leaving things unsaid, of waiting until it's too late to speak your love and gratitude to
to the people who mean things to you.
I took a few pictures after the formal part of the
ceremony. The picture at the left is a wonderful photo. Bob, at the left, is
the guy who made the group at the right possible. Bob is the head of Parks and
Community Services for the city of Davis (he was Paul's boss) and all of the other guys
either worked for him in high school or are still working for him today. Greg is in
the blue shirt, then Jon, who ran sound for Lawsuit, Ned--whose hair gets longer each time
I see him, and Derrick. In the front is Phil, a techie for Lawsuit (who broke his
wrist yesterday in a skiing accident, with Don, who's been hanging around the theatre
since he was a kid. These guys grew up under Susan's watchful eye and it was a
wonderful tribute to see how hard they all worked to make her memorial a beauitful one.
The services were followed by a beautiful buffet put together by
Greg's wife, who is a party planner (let's not talk about weigh-in on Tuesday, OK?)
There were no newspaper reporters at this memorial, no political
dignitaries, no professional camera crews. What there were were people whose paths
crossed the life of this special woman and who had been changed by her. And what
better legacy can one leave at the end of one's life?
Susan and her children: Steve,
Greg, Cindy, Diane