I met Jeremy through church, and was regularly inspired by his contributions to the services despite his difficult health issues. I’m a mime artist and contemporary dancer, and when I was given some complimentary tickets to an event I was performing at (Winter Lights, Anglesey Abbey) I thought I would offer them to Jeremy. This was the beginning our friendship.
I began visiting him fairly regularly, and quickly learned there was more to the man than the wheelchair. He was a song-writer and poet. He connected me to a local writers group he’d helped to found. He even offered me his notebook, and said if I ever wanted to dance to one of his poems I would be welcome.
As I read through his notebook I realized it was more than a compilation of his poetry, but also thoughts, proverbs, quotes and song lyrics he’d liked over the years. But I also noted the deteriorating handwriting.
Finally, on one page he simply wrote with a trembling pen how difficult it had been for him the last two years. It was so heart breaking—and yet, on the opposite page, he’d written the scripture from James: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way consider it an opportunity for pure joy. For we know when your faith is tested your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when it is fully developed you will be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (v 2-4)
I asked Jeremy for permission to tell this part of his story, and use these texts he’d written—I still used one of his poems for inspiration for the dance movement itself (a beautiful compilation called Take Me to the Sea)—but I felt that his faith through the extreme struggle of Parkinson’s disease would inspire many more people than myself.
Jeremy attended the premier of the dance, when it was performed for Queen’s College Contemporary Dance spring showcase 2016. He thanked me for honestly looking at what he had lost. I think it validated so much of the grief and hardship he’d been through.
In the dance I dance from a wheelchair. And while I didn’t return to sit in the wheelchair at the end, originally, I did stand by it, because the story hadn’t been completed. Today, Jeremy’s faith has been rewarded, and his hope has been realized. He is free of the wheelchair, and he has gone to a much better place.
I was honored to be given the opportunity to dance this piece for Jeremy’s farewell celebration. His funeral was small and only a few allowed to attend. But many more came to a special thanksgiving service, to celebrate his life, the inspiration he brought to us who knew him, and his new found freedom; as his close friend Greg put it in a separate tribute, “Jeremy is dancing with Jesus now.”
I was honored to dance a bit of his story here on earth. I titled the piece Hope.