The Big Dance


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The Big Dance

By Bobby Neal Winters

Yesterday, as I write this, was the Winter Solstice, and my Uncle Dave’s 87th birthday. It might be a mark of the simple sort of mind I have that I have the coincidence interesting that his name is “Winters” and his birthday often falls on the first day of Winter. My father was his twin brother and died on the first day of autumn getting close to twenty years ago.
I asked Dave, “How does it feel to be 87?”

“It feels real good,” he said. “It feels real good to be alive. I told them that I was starting to work on my next birthday tomorrow.”

In addition to working on birthdays, Dave likes to tinker with mechanical devices. Everyone in the family has benefited from his industrious nature to one degree or another.

“They call me a dumpster-diver,” he said, “but I think of myself as a recycler.”
You dig through trash cans in a few allies, and you’re marked for life. You’d think that people would be more liberal about this sort of thing.

I like Dave’s point of view. It is a happy one to share near the solstice. As the earth dances around the sun with its axis askew, the Winter Solstice is the point where the North Pole is farthest away from the light.

While on one hand this is the darkest day of the year, on the other the days will be getting longer between now and about the 21st of June, regardless of whatever nastiness the weather might hold in store for us between now and then. Just as Dave has started working on a new birthday, we all are now working on brighter, cheerier days.

This is a thought I need to dwell on now, because last week I attended a couple of funerals. The wives of two men from work, one retired and the other semi-retired, passed-away. I didn’t know the ladies, and so it might seem odd that I would go to the funerals, but where I come from, this is just something one does. I know the men, and, given the feelings I have for my wife, I have some hint of what their grief might be, the one might know what a hurricane feels like by feeling a summer breeze.
So I went.

I’ve never been to a funeral where I’ve walked out wishing that I didn’t know the deceased as well as I did, and it is always too late for the remedy. There is some lesson there, and I think it is repeated in every such service we attend.

Death is a part of the eternal life. It happens to everyone. We’ve got the story of Enoch, and the story of Elijah, but everybody else has died. In the act of marking someone’s passing, we remind ourselves of this. We need lot of reminding because death, by its very nature, is not something we can prepare for by our own direct personal experience. We can be with others as they die. We can comfort those who grieve. But Death itself eludes us until we meet it face to face.

From what I’ve observed, and I would defer here to my elders, is that life is a big dance. It’s going on all around us, and we choose whether or not to take part in it. Not everyone dances equally well, and we don’t all dance in the same style as everybody else, not even the same style as our partners, but the dance is there to participate in if you want to. It is a crime to let the music go to waste.

One of my rituals this time of year is watching Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carole. I believe that Patrick Stewart’s Scrooge is definitive, and they can stop making new versions now. (After Kelsey Grammar’s version, there might be a law passed.) There is a scene where Marley’s ghost tells Scrooge that those who do not go out among their fellow man in this life are doomed to do it in the next without having any affect. What I’ve seen with my own eyes confirms that to be true.

Its converse is also true. Those who go out among their fellow men in life have an effect that resonates beyond the end of that life. The tears that are shed for the departed bear witness to the fact that love extends even beyond death and ultimately defeats it, but only does so if it is shared.
(Bobby may be contacted at You may visit his website at