One, two, three; one, two, three. With its irresistible, sweeping rhythm, the waltz feels like joy in motion. Nothing is more fun than swooping around the floor in grand circles and elegant turns.
My husband, Wayne, was six foot four. His long arms windmilled with such energy when he got into a passionate conversation that his elbows became a public menace. His long legs could cover a lot of ground in a hurry, across a construction site or across the dance floor. During a polka we would lap everyone else two or three times, with Wayne driving and me hanging on for dear life and trying not to lose my shoes.
Our favorite dance, though, was the waltz. Waltzing, Wayne was grace itself in size 15 cowboy boots.
We took dance classes. We went to dances. Once we crashed a wedding dance in Pukwana, South Dakota. For several years, we had great fun on various dance floors. Then, as so often happens, we got busy. His job required more and more travel. Almost without our noticing it, dancing became one of those things that we were always going to do more of—next week, or next winter, or when we had more time.
Then, on September 3, 2002, just before midnight at the end of an ordinary Tuesday, the doorbell rang. Standing on the step were Wayne's business partner, his office manager, a highway patrolman, and a priest. They were waking me up to tell me that Wayne's small plane had crashed a few hours earlier. He and his good friend and employee Chuck Pemble had died in a North Dakota pasture.
The waltz that we considered our special song was one made popular by Anne Murray: "Could I Have This Dance For the Rest of My Life?" We did have that dance. We just didn't realize that "the rest of his life" would be quite so short.
When someone you love dies, that huge loss is surrounded by a great many smaller ones. One of the things I lost along with Wayne was dancing. At first, just hearing a waltz was enough to bring me to tears.
Eventually, time and love and living did their work, and my broken heart began to heal. Even dancing made its way back into my life, with a new partner who also loves the elegant, swooping grace of the waltz.
Life is a dance, done to complex music. Sometimes the steps are difficult, and the rhythm can change when we least expect it. Each of us has our own music, and we never know how long the song will last.
But while the music is playing, we have choices. We can sit to one side and watch because we think dancing is only for the stars. We can become so busy and distracted that we don't even hear the music. Or we can get out there on the floor and dance—for the rest of our lives.
In loving memory of Wayne Christopherson. Unbelievably, it's been ten years. Whatever the occasion, wherever the dance floor, a part of you is always there for every waltz.