Our Transition Network peer group got smaller a short time ago as we learned of the death of Blondell Cummings., who had been part of our gang of nine since the beginning. We had come together as a group in 2009, with nothing more in common that being available Wednesday evenings. Over the years, we’ve shared our lives – death, marriage, illness, job loss, vacations, new jobs, publications and moves. One of the women lives in Ohio and joins us when she can. Another recently relocated to Florida and will also join us when she’s in New York.
Blondell is our first permanent loss and she’ll be missed. You can read elsewhere about Blondell’s public life as an internationally-celebrated dancer and choreographer. From time to time, she shared stories about dancing, living in Paris, leading workshops. But most of our conversation was about everyday things. And Blondell’s everyday life was always fascinating. She was always busy. She was part of several TTN groups, evaluated arts companies for grant funding and worked to regain control of her family’s Harlem brownstone, with the dream of creating a community arts center.
What I’ll remember most about Blondell is her energy. She’d sweep into the meeting, usually a little late, carrying a large bottle of water for herself and a bag of popcorn to share. She was funny and she was deep. We spent as many hours, as a group, laughing at ourselves and the foibles of everyday life as discussing the problems of the world.
We didn’t know that Blondell was ill. She was a very private woman. In retrospect, we may wonder if her illness was what pushed her to finally work on getting her papers and performance tapes in order. As proud as she was of her body of work, though, we’ll also remember how proud she was of logging enough hours in her community pool to get an award and a tee shirt every year.
The rest of the group will go on. I hope that we’ll hold each other a bit more closely. All of us are over sixty; some over seventy. Even as the circle gets smaller, we’ll continue to celebrate and support each other.
This loss taught me to spend more time connecting and reconnecting with my larger circle. I’m being more intentional in making time for nurturing friendships. I’m experimenting with meeting and engaging a few new people as well. The new faces won’t replace those who are now out of reach; they’ll add something different. And I’ll add to their lives as well.