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The Last Dance
Whenever I dance, I always think of Jocelyn.
She and I dance together at Pacific Northwest Ballet. It is one of the most prestigious ballet schools in the country. Being as well-known as we are, of course we have amazing teachers. All of them are stellar, but I really love Madame Alisha.
“Dance like every dance is your last,” she always said. Who would have ever though that what she said could actually apply to my life in a real way?
Before I tell you any more, let me go back to the day. The day when Jocelyn’s world changed. When my world changed. When I learned to live out what Madame Alisha said like my life depended on it.
I woke up in the morning to realize it was my last show of Swan Lake. I couldn’t wait to star as Odette, the main character. Looking at the clock, I realized I needed to hurry to the studio! I grabbed my dance bag, some hair supplies, and hopped in my BMW to drive down to PNB’s studio.
While driving, I was putting on my stage makeup. I kept swerving in and out of busy streets along the way to PNB for a quick rehearsal before the show. And let me tell you, driving while putting on crazy stage makeup is not fun, or easy, for that matter. Bring, Bring… I heard my phone buzz and vibrate. Still driving, I glanced at the screen. I was receiving a call from Matt, my leading man in Swan Lake. “Hello?” I answered.
“Hey Brayleigh,” Matt said.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“It’s Jocelyn.” He replied. “She’s really out of it.”
“Like, what do you mean?” I asked nervously.
“She’s…puking all over the studio.”Matt said gravely.
I took a deep breath and hung my head in my hands. “What are we going to do?”
“The show must go on,” Matt replied.
I sighed as I hung up the phone abruptly. Why does this always happen to me? I thought as I pulled into the PNB parking lot.
As I walked into the studio, I saw Matt. He looked at me with a sad expression on his face. I turned away and dashed into the main studio. I saw Alisha draping her arm around Jocelyn, who was currently throwing up all over the dance floor. “Was your last dance your best?” asked our instructor.
“Why?” asked Jocelyn.
“You never know which dance will be your last,” Madame Alisha said. “Dance like every dance is your last.”
“Oh Jocelyn!” I cried. “Just please do this show! I can’t do It without you!” I looked at her and saw my costar, my right-hand man, and most of all, my best friend. Jocelyn looked up at me with her deep blue eyes. She pushed her blonde hair out of her face and stood up. “I’ll do it, “ she said, still looking very sick.
“Yes!” I replied, and hugged her with all my might.
“I knew you could do it, Joce,” Madame Alisha said.
We all looked at each other and laughed. “Well, we should probably head to the theater,” I said. “Let’s go.”
As we walked out of the studio, I told Jocelyn that I would drive her to the theater. She willingly agreed, and we drove to the theater with barely any conversation.
Once I finally had all my stage makeup done, my hair up in a neat bun, and my costume on, I headed to the stage with Jocelyn for some warm-ups.
“Jocelyn,” I said as I plied along with other PNB ballerinas on the stage.
“Yes?” she replied.
“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” I asked.
“Yes, Brayleigh. I’ll be fine,” Jocelyn took a very deep and shaky breath. “I’m just going to try to live out what Madame Alisha said. I’m going to dance the performance like it’s my last.”
I smiled. “Me too, Jocelyn. Me too.”
That was Jocelyn and I’s last moment to talk before the big, final production of Swan Lake. And I thoroughly believe that both Jocelyn and I danced like this was not only the final dance of our lives, but like our lives would end tomorrow.
The production was the best PNB had ever put on, according to our ballet mistresses. Not a single seat in the house was empty. The cast party afterwards was going to be great, but I guess I can’t comment on that. Jocelyn and I never got a chance to go.
The party was at a new restaurant in town. Jocelyn and I were driving to the party when it happened.
It was a semi.
Its driver must have fallen asleep because the next thing happened in a blur-I screamed, Jocelyn screamed, I honked-but it was too late.
The semi truck ran right into the front of our car. The next thing I knew was grabbing for Jocelyn’s hand and having no intentions of letting go. By that time, my little BMW was smashed and rolling over-hood then wheels, hood then wheels-into the ditch. All I felt was pain. Only pain in my neck, though. I tried to look over at Jocelyn, but I couldn’t. I physically couldn’t. I tried to squeeze Jocelyn’s hand, to tell her it was all right, but I couldn’t.
I tried to cry, but I couldn’t.
The day happened almost 4 years ago. I was only 16 when I was Odette in Swan Lake, and now I’m almost 20 and able to dance again.
You see, after the accident, I was paralyzed from the neck down. I also had very severe brain damage. The doctors said I might as well be dead because I couldn’t control any part of my body.
But I proved them wrong. I started to be able to control my wheelchair, then I could move my head and talk again, and I just progressed from there. Now, I can walk, laugh, and hug my family and friends. But most importantly, I can dance again.
Jocelyn, on the other hand, died on the scene. She never got a chance to dance again. She never got a chance to say goodbye.
Although I live a happy life now, I will always remember Jocelyn and those horrible 4 years of recovery. I will always remember Madame Alisha’s word to live by: “Dance like every dance is the last.” Because really, you never know which dance will be your last. Which step you take will be the final one. Which breath you inhale will be the very last of your life.
I learned to live again, literally. But I was blessed by a miracle sent from God. How I live now is not how I lived before the accident, when Jocelyn was still here. I have learned to grieve, and I have learned to recover both my body and my emotions. I have learned to never take advantage of life’s blessings. Most of all, I have learned to dance like every dance is the last.