(Okay, I promise this will be the last repeat for a while. Promise. I’ve almost managed to surface from the mounds of balled-up paper surrounding me, but before my coffee buzz fades and I wind up in a heap in the middle of my bed, I want to say this:
I first wrote this post back in October, but it’s haunted me ever since. Our small town has been rocked with the sudden passing of several people lately, and this was the first thing I thought about with every bit of sad news. Death is often a shock, isn’t it? I wonder why that is considering it’s common knowledge that we can’t bolt the doors of our lives to its entry. But what you’ll read here is good advice, offered to me by a very special little girl who thinks I teach her. I think it’s the other way around.)
Here I am, a man in a most unmanly place, huddled together with four others in the same predicament. We talk sports and trucks and the year’s corn crop and anything else with masculine connotations, if only to take our minds off our surroundings:
A ballet recital.
My six-year-old daughter has been taking ballet lessons for a month now. Tonight is the culmination of all that study and work, and it is an event that requires my presence. Thankfully, other fathers of other six-year-old daughters have been similarly persuaded. I have company.
Within our conversation, I watch my little girl. She twirls and steps and trips and repeats. And she laughs.
(“I love the dance, Daddy,” she has told me often. “I think God loves the dance, too.)
Another twirl and step, but two trips this time. She turns, looks at my wife, and wiggles a finger. Come here, Mommy. The two meet in the middle of the elementary school gym, and I know what’s wrong. I excuse myself from the group and join them.
“My sugar’s messy,” she says. We retreat to the stands for her glucometer. Her reading is 389.
“We should go home,” I say.
“We can’t!” she pleads. “The dance isn’t over.” She looks back to her teacher and classmates. “God wants us all to dance until the dance is done. God loves the dance. He said so.”
Both look to me. It’s my decision, and I offer a reluctant shrug. Who am I to argue with God?
Smiling, she returns to her group. But I remain apart from mine. I am instead alone, lost in this little girl, in her spirit and her joy. She dances in spite of her disease. With her disease.
And her bow is deep at the end.
Our evening over, we are confronted in the parking lot by a sea of red and blue lights across the street. A mangled white car, it’s top shorn, lay upside down in the median. Police, firemen, and rescue personnel scramble in choreographed chaos. A medical helicopter waits, blades churning, an angel of metal and wires, death and life.
My family stands silent.
“God bless the wrecked people,” murmurs my son. We all join him, grasping hands in prayer.
My wife and I exchange a look. Our town is small, the identity of the injured likely an acquaintance. Come from the school, perhaps. Football practice. A child? One of my wife’s students? Regardless, it was someone who was here and is now gone. Breathing and now not.
The suddenness of life presses into me. So fragile is our existence in this world, so easily taken and taken for granted. To love is to risk, and the opening of our hearts invites not only the warmth of joy, but fear’s cold winds.
“How can I live with this fear?” I whisper to God.
“How can I bask in your light while standing in this shadow?”
The helicopter blades swoosh.
“How must life be lived
(“God wants us to dance until the dance is done,” my daughter had said. “God loves the
in the face of death?”
I look down at my child, safe in the crook of my arm. She rests her head on my shoulder
and sighs. She is safe here, in her father’s arms. We are all safe there.
Yes, God loves the dance. And so should we. We should hear the music in this life, surrender to its rhythms. We should make its cadence our own.
And we should always dance until the dance is done.