UPDATE Jan 7, after the celebration program and reception.
Well it was beautiful and funny and sad. We cried and laughed and cried some more, lit candles and heard stories, and applauded some incredible blasts from the most excellent life of this most excellent man. Then we went upstairs and hugged, and ate and drank and told stories of our own. He would have been SO proud of his kids, all the kids who loved him and are different because he loved them. As are we all . . .
The program ended with the song “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway musical Rent. Partway through, the audio and then the video segued seamlessly into our company kids singing that song onstage two years ago, Damien with them in the background on one end, stepping forward only when someone faltered and needed his presence beside them, smiling and singing along.
MEMORIAL UPDATE posting Dec 13: “Celebrating the Life of Damien” performance set for Sunday, January 7 at 5 p.m. with reception to follow, Young Actors Theatre, Tallahassee FL, offered with the love of his Dance Studio extended family. Details to follow, I’ll add new info to the comments section for this post.
Our children are neither schooled nor churched, but they both were drawn to and “belong” within an extended family of artists and performers centered around their dance studio.
This week the learning is especially hard and especially personal.
December 4, 2006
Dear Dance Studio Family,
It is my very sad and difficult task to tell you of the sudden passing of our much beloved Assistant Studio Director, Damien Middleton. This news will no doubt be a great shock to all of you. Although he managed his chronic blood disease very well for most of his thirty years, an infection wracked Damien’s body and he became ill early last week. His organs began to fail, and the Doctors held very little hope for his recovery. As was his wish, no extraordinary measures were taken, and he passed away quietly this morning.
As many of you know, Damien was a full-time employee of Walt Disney World Entertainment in Orlando. He was a performer in the Magic Kingdom Christmas show performed in front of Cinderella’s Castle. He also served as their Dance Captain, a position that he held for a number of years at Disney. His schedule was flexible enough to allow him to maintain his close ties to our studio, where he served as my “right arm and leg” as well as instructor and choreographer.
He dearly loved his family at the studio. Although he traveled the world, he felt that our little school was his favorite place to be on earth.
Damien was dearly loved by our families. This news will no doubt be incredibly difficult for all of us, especially the students. The staff will spend this week taking cues from the needs of our students. If they want to talk, we will talk. If they want to dance, we will dance. I know that there will be many tears and hugs, and my staff and I are prepared for whatever needs to be done to get through this.
As Damien and I always agreed, our school is so much more about life than dance. Although his untimely passing is heartbreaking, all of us at The Dance Studio are committed to carry on as he certainly would have wanted us to do. . .
My mail this morning brought a perfect poem from the heart of a 13-year-old dancer and singer, traditionally schooled as most children are yet learning so much beyond that, in a true learning circle of life with my unschooled kids each day–
No matter how many tears escape my eye
I feel faintly happy, and ask myself “why?”
It’s because I see your shadow soaring free through the sky
With a halo as gold as the great eagles eye
And wings that flutter with a gentle sigh
Outside beneath the stars I lie
Goodbye, they whisper, goodbye.
And though, it is true, you are here no more
And something like this, no one could brace for
And though our hearts are still very sore
I know we’re all glad, you’ll feel pain no more
And we hope you lived just like you hoped for
You’re still with us, now and forevermore
Goodbye, we cry, good bye
You know, you not only taught us to dance
But to smile and perform every single chance
And to not spare our sorrows more than a seconds glance
And how to gracefully (but with attitude) advance in our dance
And you stood firm against all of our won’ts and our can’ts
Can’t forget all those times you gave us yet another chance
Goodbye, but most of all thanks.
Goodbye, to a great teacher, and a wonderful friend.