Dear, Dear Sandy,
I want you to know that I’m not wearing black –I think you’d like that.
But I AM wearing black lace underwear; I think you’d REALLY like that.
I need to grab whatever amusement I can get right now… It’s been such a hard week for all of us.
And like everyone else, I’ve been flooded with memories.
I remember one night at the theater, when I admired your armful of silver bracelets.
Next thing I knew, one of them was on my wrist.
It was part of the blueprint for life that you left us:
Rule # 1: Be generous and open-hearted. Share what you’ve got. Stuff doesn’t matter; people do.
I also remember the time we had a near-death experience together.
You were driving; it might’ve been a wet night.
We were coming into that horrendous University Heights intersection of Washington, Park and El Cajon Blvd.
I think you jumped the gun and jackrabbited into that insane intersection.
Cars were coming at us from all sides. I thought this was it for both of us, for sure.
After we made it through and I took my heart out of my throat, I felt completely traumatized.
You, on the other hand, were calm and collected. You continued on, and picked right up with your conversation, joking and cackling, as always. I was blown away.
Inadvertently, you were once again offering advice for living:
Rule Number 2: When the road gets rough, challenging, or even treacherous, drive on and keep laughing.
Your joie de vivre was so infectious.
You were a kid with a permanent lemonade stand. No matter what life threw your way, you squeezed the juice out of it and tossed away the bitter rind.
Your arms were always spread open, wide enough to embrace everyone you knew, stranger or friend.
Actually, there were no strangers in your life. You’d get to know someone — intimately, — in a span of seconds.
You paid such intense attention to everyone.
It was an incredible gift – to make every single person feel important, cherished, listened to, loved, and cradled in your abundance.
You were also raucous and raunchy, sometimes horny as hell. At the same time, you could be elegant and luminous.
I always looked up to you – literally. And I was always amazed at your non-judgmental goodness, your generosity and your expansiveness.
You had the passion and energy that would be the envy of an adolescent.
You so loved life.
So, how on earth could it have been taken from you, could you have been taken from us?
Who said it was ‘your time?’ I’m not buying it. Not at 68. Not when you were just beginning your fourth or fifth act – a career in musical theater, belting in that baritone of yours.
Oh, that speaking voice of yours. So distinctive, so uniquely you. So deep and rich and worldly-wise….
And so quick to erupt into a guffaw, or a wild outburst of homegrown, Oklahoma hilarity.
God, you were a beautiful person.
You covered us all in your blanket of warmth – and we’re all a lot colder now that you’re gone.
You really were everyone’s Auntie Mame –
Yesterday, I revisited what I wrote about you when I gave you your first Patté Award, for your outstanding performance as Mame at North Coast Rep in 1998:
I said the character was funny, warm, outrageous, eccentric, endearing -– not to mention far-out, flaky and fun-loving.
That’s you to a T, girlfriend.
And when you got your second Patté Award, for ‘The Gingerbread Lady,’ I said that role was the ghastly flip-side of Auntie Mame… but it also brought out some of your finer qualities – especially the frank, middle-aged sexuality.
That was in 2004. The next year, you won yet another performance Patté, as Gladys in “The Waverly Gallery” — a former powerhouse matriarch, facing decline, but still clinging desperately to her vivacity, intelligence, and wit.
It was one of several times I saw you onstage as a strong, dynamic woman seriously compromised – by Alzheimer’s or aphasia or some other neurological disorder.
Your portrayals were chillingly convincing, uniformly superb. But I found them so disturbing.
I always secretly hoped and prayed that I’d never have to see you as less than the giant-sized force of nature that you were.
So, as it turns out, I never did… but you could’ve made me wait a little longer!
Everyone knows that famous line of Auntie Mame’s: “Life is a banquet, and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death.”
Sandy’s Rule #3: Sample everything; try anything.
So, instead of dwelling on the huge, gaping hole that you’ve left in our lives, I’m enjoining everyone here to do a Sandy… a Mame – To feast … gorge … over-indulge on Life…
Fill your plate to the brim; you only go through this buffet line once.
Thanks, Darlin, for helping us through a tough situation one last time.
I’m gonna try really hard to remember your brilliant life-teachings, always.