For those of you who do not know what that means, continue reading and share this with as many people as possible. Help me make the world take 15 minutes out of their day to remember and honor someone so rare and priceless, and commit to making your own life so extraordinary that in the wake of your eternal absence someone remembers you as I do this extraordinary little muse.
Elissa Hadley was my friend, and since she succumbed to cervical cancer this past summer I have been on a mission to tell as much as I can about her to as many people as will listen, just as I have with her music in these many years since I first heard her singing. She gave me many gifts and changed everything about my life to the point that there is no part of me that in at least some small, almost imperceptible way isn't soaked with her magic - all by being the soundtrack to well over a decade of my life. It began with music and the soothing, honey-silk of her voice. My friend David described it as being "like a candle glowing in a dark room". It became a means of viewing the world through the kinds of lenses that only children have, where everything is a playground and everyone is your friend until they give you a reason not to be - and even then, you're still not seasoned with bitterness. She left this world in considerably better shape than it left her in and no matter what I've tried to do to get comfortable with that fact, I will never be able to find a safe space for it.
And that sense of humor, that completely insane and singular imagination and penchant she had for being utterly hilarious, even when she wasn't trying to be. Especially when she wasn't trying to be. Steve Elliott-Gower (who along with Tim Conley wrote & read a eulogy for Elissa that was published in Flagpole Magazine) told a great story about Elissa meeting his children in the theater one afternoon when he was coming to get something from his office and she was leaving a rehearsal for a play she was performing in. He introduced his 3 children, and without any warning whatsoever she launched into a story about her Jr. High science teacher who brought a deformed dog to class in a giant jar of formaldehyde. She described in excruciating detail how the dog had no less than 10 eyes, 7 legs, and a spine growing on the outside of its back. All three children stood horrifyingly astonished and wholly shocked. Steve asked them to go on ahead to his office and wait for him, and before he had an opportunity to ask her why she had just insisted on terrorizing his offspring, Elissa looked at him and began "What the HELL was that? I have NO idea where that even came from."
Sara Parsons told another great Elissa story at Elissa's memorial service. When Elissa was younger, her mother (Celia) would take her along on trips to the grocery store. Sara used to shop at the same store and one day, while there with Celia, Elissa witnessed a rather large woman in a muumuu type dress (for the sake of continuity, we'll call her Petunia) walking around the store. She stuck out like a sore thumb. Elissa couldn't stop watching her for some reason and caught the exact moment that Petunia took a full sized baked ham and stuck it underneath her dress, waddling around the store with it in between her legs apparently. She would have made it out of the store with the ham of iniquity were it not for the unfortunate event that transpired at the check out counter... *THUNK...* and down went the ham to the floor in a resounding... well, 'thunk'. Without missing a beat, Petunia exclaimed "Who's throwin' dem hams at me?" Somehow one could devise from this that it was decidedly not her first ham heist.
Elissa's best friend from childhood is named Monica. Having finally convinced her to join our little corner of the internet here on LiveJournal, allow me to introduce her - her blog is hanukkahmonica. Welcome, my dear, sweet M. Monica also wrote a post in honor of Elissa's birthday, which you can find here. She's posted her eulogy to Elissa that she read at the memorial service, which was perfect. She also sent me links to a couple of the more silly things Elissa loved, which you can find here and here. (I dare you to not laugh.)
Another amazing and wonderful person - the first to read a eulogy at the service - was Elissa's mother, Cecelia:
For Elissa, with love, from Mom.
I am, quite simply, the luckiest person in this room. I knew her before she was born, and I knew she was special. I felt such a “presence” there that I was convinced she was a boy. Imagine my surprise (April Fool!) upon meeting this tiny, 5lb. 3oz. girl! (I’ve learned a lot about persons of the female persuasion since then, mostly from Elissa. We’re not the weaker sex – but that’s another conversation.)
I’m also lucky because I have more memories of her that anyone here. Her quirky, exuberant, irreverent humor was there from the start. Newt has dubbed her “The Great Hilario”. When she was about 2 years old, I asked her what she would like for lunch; to which she responded, “Meat by-products!”. It was still there in the end…..in the hospital, she created the land of PooFoo, inhabited by the Poofooians who hated fakery and lying. Their response to an untruth was, “Liar, liar, POW! POW!”. Elissa did not suffer fools (or liars) gladly; and in a world densely populated by both, she learned to separate the “sparkly people” from the “muggles”. She chose you as her friends…YOU are the Sparkly People. Her dad and I were constantly amazed that two muggles such as we had created such a magical creature!
I’m lucky because I watched her use her many magnificent talents more often than anyone here. As her parents, our greatest joy was in any time spent with her, but she unfailingly blew us away each time we watched her “unwrap one of her talent boxes” and pull out something wonderful for an audience. Whether it was that voice, or her humor and facial expressions, or her ability to make you laugh and cry with her character, there was always more – After every performance we would look at each other and say, “My God! Where did that come from? I didn’t think she could get any better!” – But she always did – If she had lived to be 100, she would never have gotten to the bottoms of those “talent boxes”.
As proud as I am of her talents, I am most proud of her courage in deciding to rid her life of alcohol. I am intensely grateful to so many of you who supported and loved her before, during and after that life-changing time. Linda, Sally, Newt, Sara and so many more of you, old friends and new, helped to make the last 4 years of her life her best years. She was sober and happy and with the love of her life. She had a job she loved at Chico’s. She was acting and directing and was beginning to sing again, and she was surrounded by good people.
If spirit, courage, humor and love were enough, she’d still be with us. It took a big gun to bring her down. In the end, her body betrayed her. It had never been worthy of the spirit it had to carry around!
Although she suffered terribly those last six weeks, there is this to be grateful for; her friends came in droves to let her know how much she was loved, how important she was in their lives. She was visibly better, stronger, happier after every visit, card, or phone call. Finally, most importantly she got it… she KNEW. Thank you.
Lucky isn’t really the right word…blessed is better. Too many wonderful people have come together because of her life – too many miracle moments have been experienced for it to be luck – chance – happenstance. I truly believe we have all known and loved each other before – other times, other lives. We’ll all be together again – perhaps playing different roles – but together in “absolutely unbroken continuity”.
Gandhi said, “Where there is love, there is life”. We have the love; we have the memories; we share the laughter; we have that incredible voice. She’s given us so many gifts. Elissa’s not gone – She’s just backstage waiting for the next act.
I tell these stories and share these important things with you all because I need this - not just for myself to remember that there is goodness for us all as a result of her and it helps to take the sting out of this tremendous loss, but because I sincerely believe with every particle of my being that to never have known Elissa, to never have seen or heard that fantastic talent and spirit - is just a sad, sad thing. I want to keep her in memory for as long as is possible, and so memorializing her in posts like this one is the best way I can think of to honor her and to share what she gave me with the world.
Hopefully soon we will have the Elissa Hadley Foundation up and running and I can get a website put together in my official capacity as web master of the foundation's website. We will always have pictures, her voice, and the reasons we are starting the foundation in the first place, to generate more good in the world and hopefully prevent losses like this in the future and ensure a legacy for others.
For me, it is always the music, just as my association with her began. What she sang is priceless to me beyond measure, more than gift and more than legacy. It is not as much as we deserved, but it is more than we ever had any right to expect. Please download the music, listen to it often, and share it with others - and always, comment to me and let me know what you think of it.
All of your sparkly people love and miss you.