Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Brave Face for a Good Cause

Concert poster: Year 1
When Warren passed away, I was approached by an acquaintance who has since become a friend. He told me the story of how Warren helped him launch some live music events in Des Moines, and asked for nothing in return. The story did not surprise me, as I was flooded with similar stories at the time. Rather than just sharing a story, this person wanted to do something to honor him in return. He proposed a memorial concert that would raise money to support causes that were important to Warren. We met in late winter and he proposed a summer event, around the time of Warren's birthday. For those of you who knew Warren, his birthday was July 26. We had four months to pull it off.
Making Movies performs at the 1st concert

With the help of some other friends and former students of Warren's Latino Leadership Project, we set off to put together an event that would make him proud, and be a vehicle to keep his legacy alive. We brainstormed ideas and settled on a rock en espaƱol concert because Warren loved that genre of music, and always wished there was more of it in Des Moines.
Concert poster: Year 2

Everyone got to work and while I honestly don't remember details due to the fog I lived in at the time, I remember the night of the event. His sister and my cousin came in from California and Chicago. They were a much needed distraction, and truth be told, I looked forward to their visit more than the concert itself. Not to sound ungrateful for everyone's hard work, because I appreciated it immensely, but it was going to be a tough day. I was still reeling from the loss. It was less than six months since it happened. I was unsure of the emotional toll it was going to take. I had a tough time being in public as it was, and I was vulnerable. I felt like I was walking on to a microscope. Was I strong enough to hold my head up and be strong? Could I be joyful so as not to bring anyone down to my level of hurt and sadness? Could I hear the tunes that so marked him in my memory without running out of there screaming and crying? 

Concert poster: Year 3
For those of you who were there, you know that I made it through the night, but not without some tears. The night was incredible. It touched me beyond words to see so many of his friends come together with smiles and warm memories of partying with him. Many gave me hugs that helped me be strong and put a smile on my face.

The event has been wonderful every year since. The crowd has grown, the music has varied to include other genres (Warren loved many genres from Boleros to 70's rock and much in between), and the event has raised money for agencies serving the Latino community in the areas of financial literacy, leadership and education. 

Estrofia performs the 2nd year
What hasn't improved is my love/hate relationship with it. I love seeing people come together for something that Warren loved. It still touches and amazes me that so many people still want to honor him after three years. It doesn't escape my notice the many who come out for this event, even though they don't normally go to concerts, are not familiar with the music, or who do not speak Spanish. I love to see that. It is a reminder of the lives Warren touched. It makes me feel less alone in missing him.

Concert poster: Year 4
Yet, I dread this event. For starters, it marks a milestone. It is scheduled to fall on or around his birthday. I miss celebrating Warren with him. His laugh, his smile, the way his eyes would crinkle in the corners because he was on the verge of smiling. He would never make a big deal about celebrating himself, but his energy was palpable and contagious. That's why I loved planning his birthday parties every year. It was as much for him as it was for me. It was one of the few times he would let me make the day all about him.

Parranderos Latin Combo perform at the 3rd concert
Every time a milestone comes around, I spend the days leading up to it fighting my sadness and anger, reminding myself of the good in the world so I am not consumed by the injustice of it. There are so many milestones to face every year - mine, his, ours, our daughter's, and those of our families. Every birthday, holiday, achievement, etc. I want him there for all of them. Knowing he's not there tears me up inside, even as I go through the motions of living every day as though I am tough. These days get me. I thought they would get easier, but three years in I still struggle facing them.

This event brings together so much that was him. The music, the friends, the good times, making memories, helping others, working together for a common goal. The very essence of it has him all over it, and that is difficult to walk into alone. The room is filled with people, many of whom I love, but at the end of the day, it is without him, and it is with Warren that I want to share it. I want to see his face experience it all. I want to dance with him. I want to hear him sing off-key at the top of his lungs with Estrofia, like he did so many times before. I want to work the room with him as he hugs and shows his appreciation for everyone coming out to support live music in Spanish. All those desires wash over me throughout the night. 
The crowd enjoying the concert
I survive the night by keeping busy greeting and organizing, doing what I can to make sure everyone has a good night. I seldom hit the dance floor. I can't bring myself to sing along much, even when I know the words. I want to. My body moves to the beat, but my heart feels so heavy, like it anchors me to the ground. I fight it and I put on my best I'm OK face. At the end of the night I am exhausted from the inside out. The next day I often wish I could exist in a hole, quietly processing and decompressing. This year that feeling might be stronger because it would have been his 38th birthday. 

But, there is still a love for this concert. It fuels me. It reminds me that I am not alone in missing Warren. I feel like he isn't forgotten, and that lifts me, it moves my feet. That love steers my thoughts out of dark places and into a place of gratitude and admiration for those who value the concert, value my journey and dance beside me as I go.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Contact Me


Email *

Message *