Though she is never far from my mind, I always tend to think a little harder each July about one very special woman. On July 25, 1997, the world lost a beautiful woman, and I lost an amazing teacher and friend. My dance teacher, Blanche, was tragically killed in an automobile accident while I was attending the ELCA National Youth Gathering in New Orleans with youth from my church. This has still continued to be one of the greatest losses of my life, and there are days where I still think "what if?" What if she were alive today? Would I have continued dancing through college? Would I have attended Greensboro College (instead of UNC) so I could continue teaching at her studio? Would Brooklyn be starting her first dance class this fall in that bright red dance room on Market Street?
Though no one can answer those questions, I can say one thing. I would NOT be the woman I am today if it had not been for her influence in my youth and teen years. I spent almost ten years of my life learning from this woman- and not just how to plie, jete, and point my toes (while smiling through the pain). Blanche was very much like my own mother- between the two of them, I learned about what it means to be a hard-working wife and mother, as well as a strong, confident woman. I saw that when Blanche used to have to single-handledly send homeless men away from the studio so they wouldn't bother us girls. I saw her bravely take several of us on vacation to Charleston so we can see the Spoletto festival with our own eyes. And I saw her confidence in ME as she gave me my very first singing solo at the age of 15 when I had never sung in front of ANYONE. (And now look at me. :-) ha ha!)
I never said a final goodbye to Blanche 13 years ago, as unfortunately I was unable to make it home from New Orleans in time for her viewing and services. But, in a way, it's nice because it's always just been a "see ya later." The final memory I have of her is just a simple "goodbye...see you in a few weeks" after seeing one of her summer productions at Greensboro College.
I do, however, see her everyday in my precious girl, as I gifted her with Blanche's middle name, Marie. Lord, I even think some of her feistiness and confidence came with the name. :-) And I see her legacy continued through the lives of her two children, many students, friends and colleages (thank you, Facebook!). What a blessing she was in so many lives, and I thank God for the memories I do have of her and the little piece of my heart that she continues to live in each day.
(Photo credit: "borrowed" from her son's FB page...if you are reading, thanks Aubrey! And how can you possibly be old enough to get married????)