“Sometimes people leave you
Halfway through the wood.
Do not let it grieve you;
No one leaves for good.

I am currently in a production of Into the Woods and our director, Sheldon Patinkin, passed away halfway through the rehearsal process. I remember I was at All Our Tragic when I found out from a random stranger while we were waiting in line for the bathroom. He hadn’t been at rehearsals for a week or so and we all knew something was wrong but they didn’t tell us what. The day before he passed the cast signed a get-well card for him. I don’t know that he ever got it. That next rehearsal was a brutal one. We all walked in and they told us we were going to go ahead with the full run as planned. Everyone had different lines or songs that triggered the waterworks, but we got through the whole show. I felt more connected to both the cast and the material; we all had to rely on one another and different elements of the show were opened up to me in a new and different way. As a cast we went to the funeral and the place was packed to the limit. I was in awe of how many lives he touched. It was a beautiful ceremony.

There are so many great quotes from Sheldon, but my personal favorite is “Better an asshole than a chickenshit.” Oh, how applicable that can be. I didn’t know Sheldon for very long, but in the short time I worked with him and the events that followed I was reminded of many things, including the kind of person I want to be and the impact I want to have on other people. Last night was our opening night. It was filled with both sorrow and joy. It’s a lovely thing to know that good can come from bad if you let it.

Another great reminder from this experience…No one is alone. It is so cliche. But it’s true. Whether you’ve experienced a loss from death or heartache or what-have-you, pieces of that person still live on with you in your memories and in your heart. Even if you feel alone there is always someone who will be there to listen. Someone is on your side. Always. I just want to say this because I don’t believe anybody deserves to be alone. The woods are those dark or difficult places we unavoidably travel through and there is someone waiting on the other side to come find you if you need help. I guarantee it.

This last month, despite being surrounded by loving people every day, I’ve felt very lonely. I’ve been unable to be by myself, which – if anyone knows me – is out of the ordinary. Loneliness is a sensation that’s hard to shake. But even in the feeling of it, it helps to simply have the knowledge that someone is watching over me and that I have someone I can call if I get lost. It doesn’t make it better, but it makes it easier.

Being a part of this experience has been wonderful and I’m always caught off guard and pleasantly curious about how funny life can be in that way…we’re somehow always where and when we’re supposed to be. Oh, those sneaky little tricks of life.

Also, don’t let your fear of “the woods” keep you from living life and taking risks. Otherwise, what’s the point? Let’s venture out and shout at the world, “Bring it on!” Could be interesting 🙂

RIP Sheldon. You were a brilliant and wonderful man. Thank you.