Dance With Sherry

A painting from the archives. I call it 'Revelry!'

A painting from the archives. I call it ‘Revelry!’

Sherry was killed in a car wreck many years ago. It was ironic. She had a severe food allergy and was pronounced dead more times than she could count. Every time she went out to eat she rolled the dice. And, because she had been back and forth over that dark line so many times, she never took a day (or a meal) for granted. Death walked with her so she was awash in the appreciation of life. Sherry never missed an opportunity to laugh or dance or shock people. She was a one-person party and her enthusiasm was infectious.

She was a true friend and a colleague and took the plunge with me when I wanted to start a communications academy (teaching core curriculum through experiential processes; with students we made movies, plays, performance art pieces, poetry slams and ran businesses. It was not only a blast but hugely successful. We created things as opposed to studied things. The only trouble I ever had was getting the students to go home). Initially, the academy was a risk but she was quick to throw herself into the chaos and brought her friend Linda kicking and screaming with her. Both were extraordinary English teachers looking for a better way to teach. We were like adventurers in the wilds of education, blowing up old models and exploring new territory. It would be impossible to do today; innovators are nailed to the floor by the standardized master-tests that they must serve.

The last time I saw her she said, “This is the last time you’ll ever see me!” She had a Cheshire grin and I protested, “Why? Are you planning on avoiding me!” She leaned in so no one else might hear and said, “I doubt I’ll be alive when you come back.” I told her not to be stupid but, as usual, she was right. She also asked me to not come back for her funeral. “Let this be our goodbye,” she said.

Kerri and I have been cleaning out the house, purging years and years of boxes, clothes, and…stuff. We are making space for new things. Each load that goes out the door is matched by an opportunity or insight that flows in. Not only are we cleaning out but we are reaching back in time and visiting old friends and extraordinary moments. More than once we’ve sat to share photographs or letters, “This is what I used to look like,” or, “Remember I told you about my friend…., this is us 20 years ago.” For some reason, Sherry has been with me today. I have no photos of her and no letters but I have terrific memories. I’ve been meditating on joy all day and she was the embodiment of joy. She was the queen of mischief and bold leaps of faith. “Life is never sure!” she’d giggle. “You only have today so dance it or get off the floor!” she’d shout, punching me, her Cheshire grin breaking across her face before erupting in gales of laughter.

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