What I love most about SDG’s Festivals are the magical moments when the movement and the community create deep connections of all kinds that wouldn’t have been made on their own. There were plenty of magical moments at Festival 2012 “Dance A World Of Hope” and Melissa Wharton was at the center of many of those moments that graced my week in Holland Michigan.
Melissa, her father Chris, and her four-legged companion Aurora, came up to meet me after Festival 2012’s Opening Celebration. Melissa’s bight smile and twinkling sense of humor took me right into her heart and then before I knew it, I was on the floor next to her wheelchair with Aurora in my lap loving me up. It was a magical moment of unconditional love.
Melissa began sacred dancing last year in her early 30’s with Little Flower Church Sacred Dance Group from the Chicago area. Her fellow dancers encouraged her to apply for one of SDG’s scholar- ships and that’s how we all connected. Melissa described her experience dancing the sacred with Little Flower as “We share our love and sorrows through the dance.” She came to the SDG Festival for a deepening experience of connection to movement and prayer.
Her father Chris told us that Melissa had the best week of her life and felt like a star. She felt accepted and valued greatly for who she was and how she danced. Melissa was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at nine months old. This affected her physical growth and development. She had always lived with pain and the many challenges of a crippling disorder while knowing how fragile life is.
During Festival week, Melissa, Aurora and I made sure we had moments where we could share a similar type of life understanding and love. Both Melissa and I have had juvenile and adult rheumatoid arthritis thus creating a special bond between us. Yes, I have been crippled twice in my life, once as a child starting at age eight and again in my early thirties when my life also was in danger. Both times, movement and dance connected me with my Divine Life Source and were key practices in a healing modality that kept me moving and alive with the hope that I desperately needed.
The Saturday, before the Sunday evening Melissa got home from Festival and surprisingly passed on quietly in her sleep, found us both dancing in co-joint wheelchairs together.
My past experience of living in a wheelchair had felt so restricting and non-danceable. Learning to pop wheelies and move myself in dance-like rhythms in a modern wheelchair beside Melissa gave me a deep inner peace about what I had experienced in the past and what I could possibly experience again in the future. Melissa’s serenity and dignity flowed into the wounded parts of me creating another magical moment.
During Festival’s closing celebration, Melissa, Aurora, and I had one more blessed magical moment when we danced “The Face Of God/Goddess” together. With wisdom and love pouring forth sincerely from her face and heart, and not knowing that within 24 hours she would not be in her body any longer, we had one last magical moment. Our souls connected knowingly as we sang and danced…
“You are the face of God I hold you in my heart. You are a part of me. You are my family. You are the face of God.”
To see other articles from this journal issue http://sacreddanceguild.org/journal/sdg_fall2012.pdf
JoyBeth is an author, dancer, teacher, and interfaith minister. She has been a faculty member at our Festivals, also serving SDG by being on its Board of Directors. http://www.soulintegrators.com