I’ve been searching for words for a couple weeks now.
I’m not always good with words. That’s why I dance. Sometimes there is just too much emotional and a jumble of feelings and no words.
I’ve never been good at talking about the “hard stuff”. Dark feelings and sad days and melancholy – I’m so well acquainted with them and yet I can never give them words. I have a fairly good sized vocabulary, but I may as well be mute when it comes to the hard stuff. I’ll sit with a million thoughts in my head and barely be able to scrape three words together in an hour.
I was in a dark place in high school. I like to think that I hid it well, but I’m fairly certain that wasn’t the case. Talking with high school friends about it now, they seem to remember more about my depression than I do. Was it really that obvious? Did I really say those things? Why did I push away good friends? Depression really is such a dark cloud, it’s hard to see through it, even when you’re years past it on the other side.
I went to a really small high school. My graduating class was four. There were never more than thirty, maybe thirty-five of us there at a time (freshman through professional division). The musical theatre department usually averaged fourteen. We saw the same fourteen kids day in and day out, for eight to twelve hours at a time. We were sort of forced into each others business. Even in such a small group, there are definitely certain people who stand out in nearly all of my high school memories. Ashlyn. Zach. Khahil. Becky. Teya. Lexi. Becca.
Ari joined the Conservatory a year after I did. She was a year younger than me but always seemed so much older and wiser. She was so beautiful and so, so, so very talented.
I loved acting classes with Ari. Being partnered with her was always such a pleasure – she gave so much and was always so open and receptive to her partners. She soaked up any nervousness you might have and gave back so much strength.
She was an Irish dancer and an amazing fiddler and folk singer.
So much talent and love and knowledge packed into such a young person.
Whenever any of us were in bad moods or dark places, she was there. She always said she had an old soul caught in a young body. She knew. She had seen the dark scary places and was always there for us when we had to tread through them.
She’s literally one of the last people from high school I would have guessed would succumb to those dark, scary, evil, hard places. Because she had walked through them and was always holding us up
I saw Ari for the first time in years last November. She stage managed the New Vision show. It was so wonderful to catch up with a dear friend after so long. She performed in a New Vision piece this past spring and I had so looked forward to seeing her more regularly once we started rehearsals in the summer.
I saw her Mom at Seattle Center one day last month. We rode the elevator of the center house up – me on the way to 127th St rehearsal, her on the way to teach a class. As we parted ways, she suggested I call Ari. That it would make Ari’s day.
I am antisocial and terrified of the phone and find putting myself out there to be scary. And I had expected to see her in a few weeks when rehearsals started up. And so I didn’t call. I will forever regret that decision.
On July 7th, dear, wonderful, amazing Ari took her own life. She killed herself. The girl who was always holding us up above the dark places was swallowed whole by them. I’m in absolute shock.
It’s been a rough couple of months for me.
On June 4th The Explorer’s Mom died. She fought pancreatic cancer hard for nearly a year and it finally took everything from her. I can’t believe she’s gone. I scrolled past her name in my phone last week and burst into tears. I’ve wanted her to be my Mother-in-Law since the moment I met her. For the past year I’ve been hoping for a miracle so she could see her oldest get married and maybe even live to see her blue eyed grandkids.
On July 1st a good friend from my church in Virginia died. From pneumonia. I keep saying “who dies from pneumonia?” and keep being told a lot of people do. But how many 27 year olds die from pneumonia? It seems so ridiculous to me. We weren’t close any more, but he was an old best friend’s cousin who was almost more of a brother. He was a big part of the youth group for a long time and I always loved him.
Not a week later Ari died.
Needless to say, I’ve been in a funk. I think it probably would’ve hit me a lot harder, a lot sooner, had it not been for rehearsals. I have a hard times with words and feelings, but dance is the best therapy for me. So I threw all of my feelings into four hour rehearsals, six days a week.
Ari’s funeral and the 127th St show were the same day. Talk about a lot of emotion. After one of our first full show run-throughs Dana commented “we go through so many emotions in 45 minutes!” Add to that all the emotions wrapped up in a beautiful funeral for someone who shouldn’t be dead, plus the performance high I get from being on stage, and you get my Saturday.
Ari’s service was so beautiful. The church was packed. Standing room only. There were jokes and laughter and tears and questions. So much love. She was so loved. So loved. I wish she had known that. I wish she had felt that.
After we left the church The Explorer turned to me and said “if all those people in there, who love her so much, couldn’t save her, then you couldn’t have either.” [He was probably much more eloquent, as he is better with words than I.]
I’m still resolving to get over my antisocial tendencies. I know I like to stay home and keep to myself because it feels safer to me, but if I could’ve made dear, sweet Ari feel more loved in her last days, then I should’ve called. I want everyone in my life to know how much I love them. How important they are. How special and wonderful and amazing and important they are. I don’t want to lose someone and forever regret not giving them all the love I could’ve.
Rest in peace, Arwen Morgan.
April 15, 1988 – July 7, 2011