sparkleTate, sparkle on

“your life will be measured by the lives you impact”

Six years ago we celebrated the life of a dear friend whose life was tragically cut short. Since many of us were scattered across the country and unable to be physically present, we honored his memory by wearing items that sparkle and shine. You see, he was known for outlandish and flashy attire. It came natural for him. He was a costume designer and a damn fine one. He wasn’t bashful about wearing items of clothing typically designed for women. He was particularly found of brooches, so much so that he was rarely seen without wearing one. It became his iconic accessory.

We were in many of the same theatrical productions, and we worked closely together as “best of buds” in our production of My Fair Lady. I cannot say we were super close in real life, however, I always looked up to him. He was always the life of the party we attended, and as his obituary accurately states,

“Tate made friends wherever he went, and was an extraordinary soul.”

His determination to be the very best at his craft was inspirational. He was a year ahead of me and was always making great strides in his pursuit of his dreams.

Every year since I have honored his memory by wearing one of the four items I acquired specifically for that occasion.

At the time, I was the tenor section leader at First Unitarian Church of Rochester. Unbeknownst to me, the church’s Remembrance Service fell on the morning of his memorial service. I arrived in outlandish form in his honor and was surprised to see the Remembrance Tree up. As we had in years prior, we were instructed to take the paper leaf from under our chair and write the name of someone you had lost in the past year. Later in the service we were then given the opportunity walk up and place our leaf on the remembrance tree. I remember losing my composure as I made my way down stairs and completely losing it as I made my way down the aisle. The symbolism of seeing human life as fragile as a leaf invites us to be more careful with our words and actions and is an annual reminder of our finite mortality. The rush of emotions created by that particular ceremony seared 11/11/12 into my memory forever.

On the first year anniversary, my law professor, without understanding my rationale, made fun of my attire when I volunteered to help the class discussion along. I brushed it off knowing a public explanation or public share would do no good. More importantly, the point of honoring someone or something was for me, not them.

Since then I have shared what the ring on my right hand means to me with many of the people who have asked. It has nothing to do with my marital status. It is a constant reminder that “the journey is the reward,” and to be strong and brave enough to handle whatever life throws my way. No matter how bad life may get it will never be that bad. I understand how ending my life is exponentially detrimental to those around me that love and care about me. And, it is a constant reminder to treat humans as humans, and lend time and energy to those in need of comfort and motivation.

We will never know what was going on in his mind that early morning in late October in the moments before he was fatally struck by a subway car at 5:15 am.

What we DO know is your life will be measured by the lives you impact.

May his sparkle shine on through the ages

May his sparkle shine on through those of us that remain.

Tate Marie Ellis (1989-2012)