Monday, August 08, 2022

Memorial Ribbon Banner Flexibility


Michele Beaulieux dancing with red ribbon banner
@ 2014 William Frederking
(See more photos by clicking here)

I offered to bring my ribbon banner to the outside memorial service for my friend, Hannah Hayes, who was as remarkable as her death was horrendous. She died in a hit and run accident a block from the school where she volunteered and where the memorial service was held. 

A friend of Hannah's had been musing about when might be appropriate to take down the makeshift memorial under a tree at the intersection where she died. I suggested we could disassemble it the day of the service and bring the mementos to the memorial service—symbolically moving her memory. We learned, however, that the family wanted to keep the memorial up. So I had thought that before the service, I’d walk from the accident site to the school, going from where she died to the school where she lived and where I’d like to remember her, ushering her spirit there with a ribbon banner. 

So the day before the service I went there to try it out. I met some people who were socializing on the parkway near the memorial, including a woman and a man who had witnessed the crash and ran over to Hannah's car to see if she was o.k. They tried to help as best they could. It was traumatizing to witness. When I explained that I wanted to bring Hannah's spirit with the ribbon banner from where she died to the service at the school the next day, the woman objected. "I need my angel here with me," she said. Far from wanting to dismantle the memorial, the woman wanted to use some of my ribbons to wrap the tree underneath which the memorial sits. So we did. Hannah touched so many people in so many ways. We all want her! I did not process from the memorial to the service at the school the next day. The woman provided a perspective I had not considered. I felt humbled.

I usually don't like to talk when I minister in movement: talking and moving are two separate roles. I had thought I could wave the banner as a reflective interlude between speakers to give people a moment to absorb what was said, perhaps with music. This service, however, was very informal, and I was given a five minute time slot. I couldn't imagine waving the banner for five minutes, so I wasn't sure what to do. Then I was asked to represent the Thursday call group that Hannah had started. So I wrote out what I wanted to say. I planned to give my reflections and then wave the banner. But on the way over, it occurred to me that I could talk and wave the banner at the same time. When I got to the park by the school where the memorial service was to be held, I rehearsed. I choreographed movement with the ribbon banner to the refrain I used in my reflection, "I'm so sorry for your loss." 

At the memorial service, I listened to the many speakers. By the time it was my turn, my planned words, while providing a twist, would have been redundant with the previous speakers. I realized that my words would also be redundant with my movement. I decided the ribbon banner would be more powerful without words. So I gave a brief synopsis of our Thursday call group and then I said that even though Hannah is a writer, sometimes, words are inadequate, and I pulled out my ribbon banner and waved it, letting it blow in the wind ... 

So what I did evolved: it was helpful to be flexible, adapt, and improvise. You can see me from 1:01:55 through 1:03:38 at the memorial service, but unfortunately not my ribbon banner too much. ;-) It's too high in the sky! You can see ribbon banners in this photo album, Michele Beaulieux with Red Ribbon Banner, from a photo shoot with Chicago dance photographer William Frederking. I've dedicated the photo album to Judy Clasen who loved good liturgy and appreciated my sacred dancing.