June 17, 2010

Processional into the Waiting Light

When veteran AP theatre critic Mike Kuchwara died last month, numerous media outlets noted that he was surrounded by friends and family and listening to Ethel Merman's Mama Rose from Gypsy at the moment of his death.

Mr. Kuchwara was a beloved Broadway figure, and while I did not know him I understand the impact of his life upon the theatre community. A long-time theatre advocate as well as critic, Kuchwara was praised by his peers as "fair-minded." He was honored in death with lights dimmed on The Great White Way as well as acknowledged at last weekend's Tonys at Radio City.

When First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died in 1994, I clearly remember her handsome son -- John-John to the Baby Boomers --stepping out of her Fifth Avenue building to a waiting media crowd.

Through tears, the Son of Camelot said something like, "My mother died as she lived, surrounded by her music and her books and her friends.(paraphrased).

These passages share a theme, that life is deeply enriched not only by friends and family but with the majesty of the arts. My life has been touched by painters, musicians, potters, and even the occasional uke player.

My faith offers me hope of an afterlife -- one I hope for, but cannot imagine or explain. What a joy to think of the blessing of a peaceful transition surrounded by the people and things we loved in life.

If given an easy transition (and who knows?) and a choice of environment, what would I choose?

Surely this picture I'm painting would be more beautiful if I said I want Beethoven's Ninth, but I think I'll go with Ella Fitzgerald and "Stairway to Paradise." Full blast, please!

All you preachers
Who delight in panning the dancing teachers,
Let me tell you there are a lot of features
Of the dance that carry you through
The gates of Hea-ven.

It's madness
To be always sitting around in sadness,
When you could be learning the steps of gladness.
You'll be happy when you can do
Just six or seven;

Begin to day!
You'll find it nice,
The quickest way to paradise.
When you practise,
Here's the thing to know,
Simply say as you go...


I'll build a stairway to Paradise
With a new step ev'ry day !
I'm gonna get there at any price;
Stand aside, I'm on my way !
I've got the blues
And up above it's so fair.
Shoes ! Go on and carry me there !
I'll build a stairway to Paradise
With a new step ev'ry day.

Take no chances on this Paradise ;
Let me give you advice.

information from Associated Press, Wikipedia, and lyrics.com. Thanks to George Gershwin for writing An American in Paris.