As I stood backstage watching my youngest students dance, I felt Bruce’s absence more profoundly than I had anticipated.
The annual dance recital was an event that took a year in planning—theme, music, choreography, costumes, tickets, programs, scenery, ushers, classroom attendants—teaching all the dances to my students.
But no matter how well-organized Carol and I were, anything could happen—and often did! Which is why, every year, Bruce took the day off work and made sure he was available to help any way he could.
He carried in gym mats, boxes of hats, and scenery supplies. He drove to Radio Shack to pick up missing cords, or to the deli to pick up lunch. He tracked down the custodian to unlock classrooms, and helped families get their wheelchair–bound loved ones into the building.
He didn’t correct anyone when they called him Mr. Clark.
Once the show began, he would stand off stage, out of the way but attentive to whatever I needed. Sometimes he wandered out front to watch Emily and Meghan dance, or to check if the sound level was good.
Throughout the ninety–minute performance, he cheered us all on.
When it was over, he gave me a kiss on the forehead and said, “Good show, Miss Ann.”
I didn’t realize what a gift all that had been until his spot off stage stood empty.
His absence was profoundly felt again a few days later at Emily’s high school graduation. Knowing how greatly his loss would be felt on that day, a few firefighters from Squad 41 attended Emily’s graduation in full dress uniform and held up a large banner that read “Congratulations Emily!”
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