A Trio of Transitions: Judy, Hannah, and Mark

They say that deaths come in threes, and last month, I experienced a trio of transitions.

Michele Beaulieux dancing with red ribbon banner
@ 2014 William Frederking
(See more photos by clicking here)

Wondering what had happened to an old friend, Judy Clasen, with whom I had lost touch, I searched the internet and was saddened to learn she had died in February. I met her many years ago at Holy Name Cathedral where she was an active volunteer. We were in a prayer group together, and we ministered together for many Masses. When someone was trying to recruit me as an usher at the Lyric Opera, I declined, but recommended Judy. She ended up ushering at the Lyric for many years. It was an ideal job for an opera lover who was also a warm, gracious person.

I missed Judy’s funeral, and wanted to do something to honor her. Given her love of liturgy, something liturgical seemed appropriate. I dug up these photos from 2014 of me dancing with a ribbon banner, which harken back to times with Judy. My dress and the ribbons are red for—as Judy would know only too well—Pentecost. I dedicate this photo album, Michele Beaulieux with Red Ribbon Banner, from a photo shoot with Chicago dance photographer William Frederking, to Judy, who loved good liturgy and appreciated my sacred dancing. Clicking through the photos, it’s easy to imagine the movement from one to the next.

Then, on July 11th, my friend, Hannah Hayes, was killed in a hit and run car crash. She was as remarkable as her death was horrendous. As a friend recounted: “Many people talk about doing things. Hannah actually did them.” And it’s true. She was an activist through and through. I met her because I started attending the “Thursday call group” that she had started after Trump was elected. We’d talk politics—Hannah knew the ins and outs of Chicago politics, backwards, sideways, and inside out—and then we’d call our elected officials about the issues that rose to the top. While it felt good to be doing something, I kept going because I liked Hannah. She was fun and funny and warm. She was knowledgeable, thoughtful, and insightful. And she often had a delicious treat for us.

When someone dies, we tell the family, I am sorry for your loss. And I say to Jesse and Zach and Hannah’s brothers and sisters, I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t begin to imagine the hole her passing has left in your lives. For Hannah, though, condolences to the family feel woefully inadequate. Hannah touched so many people in so many ways. I want to say to the children at Reavis School for whose education she advocated, I am so sorry for your loss. Indeed, for all children in Chicago public schools, I am so sorry for your loss. For the people of the Southside of Chicago, who benefitted from better and better informed elected officials because of Hannah, I am so sorry for your loss. Indeed, for the people of the entire city of Chicago, the people of Illinois, the people of the United States, I am so sorry for your loss. For people trying to immigrate to the United States, for whom she advocated, going down to the border, I am so sorry for your loss. The list of condolences goes on and on. So I’ll just say, to the world—the people, the animals, the plants, and the earth—I am so sorry for your loss.

[UPDATE: To watch the memorial service, including the ribbon banner dance I did, and to read about how my contribution to the memorial service evolved, visit my sacred dance blog.]

At the end of July, I learned that a former neighbor, Mark Balcerzak, had died after a long illness. I had not seen him or his family in 15 years. I’ll always remember when I first moved into the apartment below them: how Mark proudly introduced me to his wife and children: “This is my family!” with a radiant smile on his face. I went to the wake and reconnected with his wife and children, who are all grown up now. It was wonderful to see them, even though under sad circumstances. We reminisced about walking the dog, Rocky, baking fruitcake, and making mulberry jam.

© 2022 Michele Beaulieux … Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. That means you are free to share and adapt as long as you attribute to Michele Beaulieux, don’t use for commercial purposes, and use this same license. And if you do share, I’d love to know!

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