Note: I wrote this post this past Friday and then realized that it was probably what I should share at her Celebration of Life service which was held last night. I refrained from publishing it until after I read it there.
My friend, Dottie, died this week. After fighting and surviving two battles with cancer, her heart failed her unexpectedly. I find that ironic because, in my experience, Dottie’s heart never failed anyone who knew her.
I first met Dottie in 2004 when I was cast as the gruff and somewhat foul-mouthed Captain Brackett in the musical South Pacific. I met Dottie as she worked in the Costume Shop helping get me costumed for the show.I cannot claim to have been particularly close friend, but she was a friend, and she was dear to us all. We were both part of the theatre and arts community. Having been president of the local community theatre for the better part of a decade, I worked with Dottie and helped oversee the costume shop that she founded and managed. When she first learned of her struggle with cancer, Dottie came over to our house, sat on our couch and told us; She, Wendy and I cried together. Today, she is absent in body while Wendy and I continue to cry.
The top five things I loved about Dottie:
- She did what she loved, and she loved what she did. Dottie loved costuming. It was her passion, and she followed that passion. When our community theatre began a decade ago, Dottie started storing costumes in her attic. Within a few years her attic was overflowing and the community theatre decided to rent space and start a costume shop. Dottie managed and ran the costume shop, pretty much single handedly, for years. She didn’t do it for riches or fame or notoriety. She did it because she loved it and it made her happy. More of us need to follow that example.
- She laughed…alot. Perhaps it’s because she was always doing what she loved that she almost always had a smile on her face and was constantly laughing – even through her tears. I loved her laughter and the way she made me laugh.
- She threw a mean Christmas party. Many people throw parties. Few people throw them well. Dottie and Mike’s Christmas parties were legend. Wendy and I often could not attend because of conflicts (especially with performance nights), but I will always remember the warmth of her home, the quality of the spread, and the joy of the host.
- She was courageous. Dottie feared cancer. After defeating it once, she feared its return. When it did return, she feared the second battle. She defeated it a second time. It is said that courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to do what needs to be done in spite of it. Dottie found her strength in the midst of her fear. I admired her for that.
- Love. Anyone who is around the theatrical community for any length of time knows what a dysfunctional lot we can be. It’s no more dysfunctional than any other gathering of flawed human beings, we just have the ability and training to be capably dramatic about it all. Dottie, like all of us, experienced her share of conflicts. I was a witness to a few of them, yet I never witnessed Dottie holding a grudge. I never observed her being unkind, rude or mean. I did see her being forgiving and kind to individuals who had not been particularly kind to her. I witnessed her love for Mike. I watched her selflessly and capably raise her granddaughter. I observed her being a good friend, and I had the privilege to experience a little taste of that myself.
The last time I saw Dottie was as she exited one of the performances of my play Ham Buns and Potato Salad this past month. She was laughing, which was no surprise. One of the lines in the play which Dottie loved most of all was when one character says, “That boy is so dumb he has to get naked to count to 21.” Dottie came up to me and simply said, “Twenty-one” and continued laughing. She then whispered “I can’t believe you wrote that!”
Dottie knew that I was a person of faith. And, while I am a follower of Jesus, I am no prude and will give true and authentic voice to the characters I portray and pen as an actor and playwright, even if the words they say may not necessarily be the words I would choose to come out of my own mouth. Having said that, please know that I do not have to channel Captain Brackett from South Pacific in order to say what I know to be true: Dottie was one helluva dame, and my life is better for having her in it.