I’ve never been able to say goodbye. Growing up as an Army brat and moving every two or three years forced me to bid farewell to friends, family, neighborhoods, schools, states, and countries. This experience, repeated over time, took a toll, and to this day, I can’t say goodbye.
Photo by Joseph Pe
HOPE WANTS TO SAY GOODBYE
I stood in for Hope Davis on Dick Wolf’s short-lived TV series Deadline (2002). One afternoon, while shooting in the old Post building (our home base), the set went dark. I thought they blew a fuse, but the studio pulled the plug on the show, and production turned off the lights. Deadline flatlined. This unexpected end triggered my goodbye trauma response from all those years of leaving places, and I started to cry. Embarrassed, I fled to the ladies’ bathroom to pull myself together. Someone called my name. “Jill, where’s Jill? Hope wants to say goodbye.” All those memories of leaving everyone and moving to a new, unknown place came flooding back. This made me cry more, so instead of saying goodbye, I hid in the bathroom until Hope left.
Not too long ago, my friend and colleague, Richard Marshall, passed away. He’d been dealing with health issues for a while, but I still found his loss hard to comprehend. I buried my parents, but that’s normal. Parents should go first. I spread ashes and attended memorial services for friends and family, but this was the first time I participated in a burial for a friend.
One of Richard’s many gifts included a beautiful voice. He spent years acting in theater and musicals in and out of New York City. He played the lead in Rumulus Linney’s play, Holy Ghosts, about the religion that does serpent handling. An actor was bitten every night, but not Richard.
Richard played the part of my dad (the Colonel) in a staged reading of my award-winning play, Collateral Damage.
On a recent New Year’s Eve, he and his talented wife, Alix, performed Bad for You, a show they put together at the Cornelia Street Cafe consisting of songs about sex, drugs, and bad decisions. They shared their unique sense of humor in their banter between songs.
Not too long ago, Richard began writing and performing stand-up comedy, and he was hilarious. His wife Alix told me, “He’s a great example of how actors can spend their whole lives in this field and be completely unknown.”
On a gorgeous late summer day in an idyllic setting, we stood around his grave, told stories about Richard, laughed and cried, and read quotes on death from The Bard. A beautiful send-off for a man brimming with joy, kindness, humor, and talent.
Does grief ever go away? I don’t think so. It changes form, morphs into something else, hides, and resurfaces when you least expect it. But grief gives life meaning. Loss reminds us that we will one day leave this earth plane and have no control over when or how that will be. Grief makes me grateful for the day and the days I have left, which are diminishing as I write this.
I want to believe reincarnation is real, and we return to the source from which we came, somewhere on the other side. Our souls live on.
I was devastated when my parents died, Mom at 65 (too young IMHO) and Dad at 70. But when your friends die, it brings death a bit closer to home. A reminder that, gulp, life is short with no guarantees.
To my fellow travelers, I hope this finds you and your loved ones well. Enjoy the time you have, share love and laughter, forgive, and keep on keeping on.
Okay, time’s a wasting. I need to return to my Swedish death cleaning.
Until we meet again.
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Copyright © 2023 Jill B Dalton All rights reserved.
New York City