I’ve tried time and again to write about the weekend spent celebrating Patricia’s life, and it all falls flat. Mark Booher, Artistic Director for PCPA, described the experience well when talking of how to explain the impact and reach of Patricia’s presence: You had to be there.*
One can’t tell stories about Patricia without also telling one’s own story, and I believe she did that on purpose. She lived life as an artistic collaboration. Everyone was her partner in creation. She saw the future potential in people, and lovingly demanded that potential be set free in the present. She believed in making art without hesitation because it was better to fail spectacularly than to try timidly. She taught her actors that perfection wasn’t worth chasing because it was truth that mattered—and truth is a messy, painful, incredible imperfect thing.
These are the things she taught me. These are the things I want to pass on to others.
The experience of the celebration of her life was beautiful, fulfilling, and warming. Within half an hour of arriving, Dev and I found John—the man who I acted with for years, and who performed my wedding on the set of King Lear, the play Patricia was directing at the time. I had a few moments of private conversation with him that quieted some of my worst fears of Patricia’s final days.
Just before the celebration in the outdoor theater began, I met up with three actors who’d been—along with me—in the first cast Patricia worked with in the area more than twenty years ago. Then one of them pointed out Dev was less than three years younger than I had been that year! And every one of them talked about how I’d huddle in some backstage corner between my scenes, frantically writing by the glow of stage lights that seeped around the sets. Even as an actor, I was a writer.
It was yesterday, home less than twenty-four hours, that I realized one of the greater gifts Patricia had given me: fertile artistic ground. I didn’t seek out conferences and conventions in those years because I was already surrounded by creative people doing creative things. Creativity was the default, not the special exception. Creativity was the valued expectation, not the little thing on the side. Creativity was as breathing.
It was like living at Viable Paradise.
And I can hear her voice now: “If you want that back, love, decide now and make it happen. All that’s stopping you is the silly notion that you can’t do it, and notions don’t get a vote in this.”
For Dev, the trip gave him the chance to learn so much more about Patricia, and about the past of his parents. It’ll be the time I’ll look back on as the time when Dev began the shift to more adult than teenager.
I will always miss Patricia. I’ll always want to share one more conversation, to see one more show, to hear one more laugh, to relax into one more embrace. But I’m no longer painfully grieving. She lived her life as she wished, and left a legacy of love, art, and passion.
May we all aspire so.
*Who is the Patricia person? My dearest friend on nearly twenty-five years, and my son’s godmother. Go here.