Last weekend, a benefit concert was presented for Paul Denckla, who has a rare form of cancer and mounting expenses. The selections were from musicals; some from recent shows, others from shows past. At $15.00 a ticket, it was a good cause and sure to be a quality performance, but it was so much more. The songs evoked many emotions: thought, pain, joy irony and comedy. Theater people amaze me . It’s a wee bit unfair, in my opinion, how some people spill over with talent. They sing! They dance! They act! They play music! Then there’s me. The person who flunked out of my first acting class. Seriously. Being a professional speaker, that may seem odd. Trust me, it is much harder than it looks. I can play me, but I can’t play anybody else. The only thing that eased my inadequacy that night is when my friend shared her funniest failure: she flunked massuese training 101 and left after lunch.
Here’s what I learned from the benefit:
1. For the caliber of talent, the house should’ve been packed. It was that good.
2. The greatest tribute was sung by the honoree’s adult children, “Unforgettable.” And it was.
3. The second to last song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, (Carousel, 1956) was more than poignant. We started sharing Kleenexes.
4. For the final song, Joe Torkarz, a professional actor who played Jean Valjean in Les Mis, sang, “Bring Him Home.” Not a dry eye in the house. Throats tightened as if footballs had been served as a snack.
Google these songs on YouTube if you’re, (a) too young to remember them, or (b) too old to recall them. The real benefit is that a group of friends thinks enough of this man to put this show together. It made us glad we had made the effort to attend and made me wish we’d attended the first benefit, “Love Letters” on Valentine’s Day. It occurred to me that, as unfair as it seems for a terminal illness to befall Paul, how lucky he is in another respect. I would die a happy woman to be honored in such a manner. It is the ultimate compliment of a person’s life.
Also last week, a seemingly unrelated event proved a similar point, when a friend’s dog went missing. Considering that Sandy is ten years old, it seemed unlikely that she ran away. Some thought she’d walked to the woods to die. Still, nobody gave up hope. The beauty of Facebook connected at least 500 people or more. Many drove, walked, or scoured the woods to find Sandy. I felt overwhelmed as I drove around, with so many options she’d have had to wander. Many friends and hours later, Sandy was returned, through a bit of extortion by bad people. But, and this is a BIG but, whose cockles of the heart wouldn’t be warmed by the turnout of friends and probably strangers, who helped?
Later on, it seemed appropriate to reflect on both experiences. I mean, aren’t we all terminal, when you dissect it? None of us knows exactly how much line is unfurling on our own reels of life. The message for me was to discover and nurture a passion that feels right and celebrate friends, pets or whatever else you hold precious. Right. Now. It’s never too late. Or it might be too late. No one knows for sure. Remember everyone’s holding a reel of line. Now, go snag life, People.