Saturday April 16th was the last Fabby Abbey Ball at Spindletop Hall. We planned that special night way in advance, and anticipated all the fun it was going to be.
When we got there, they asked for our names to check off the list and find seating. We had ordered the tickets the moment it was advertised to be sure and reserve a seat, but as the lady at the front desk glided her hand down the list, we were not there. I had that awkward what do we do feeling for a moment, standing there dressed like two kids ready for the prom. Then my husband found his recipe and she apologized and looked around the room and said, “hum..table 11 is fine." So we went to table 11 and I was aware in that moment, I was just placed at a random table without thought to the arrangement of people considered. I wondered who would show up as we watched lovely couples dressed in beautiful beaded gowns and regal suits. It did feel like being in a movie, the room was swarming with laugher, while classical music played and strangers became friends. Fresh flowers adorned the tables and plush green vintage furniture gave an historic feel to the Spindletop Hall.
As we settled down we began getting to know our company to the left of us, a wonderful married couple with great stories about Aviation and life. Coming a little later to our table was a tall man and with him an elegant date, dressed in the most lovely roaring 20’s-styled dress. They greeted each person at the table, and settled down right next to us. I noticed he could have moved his chair a little further away, but instead sat down shoulder to shoulder with me and began to talk. And we all had the chance to chat most of the night about the great food and favorite characters on the show, and I asked him what he did for a living. He casually said, "I am a Cardiologist," and asked me what I did. I told him about being a mom, photography and some time spent in the military. He immediately sat up and said, “Oh me too! I was a Captain in the Medical Corps," and went on to explain he still had his uniforms. He was saving them in case his children were ever interested in them. I told him it was a great idea and I still had mine, because I think most kids will think that is cool one day. He grinned a warm and soft grin and shook his head. It was the easy flow of getting to know a person you had never met before, filled with praise for their children and appreciation for so many things.
I had really wanted a group photo most of the night, but by the time we got around to it, he had taken his lovely date to dance to the band. We went down stairs and looked for all our companions. Moments later they came by and I watched his date’s purse as they moved to the dance floor. But being the lover of photography and people, I stood there watching everyone, peeking into their relationships and stories. It was evident though, that no one else existed on that dance floor except the good doctor and his date. He held her close and she took his face in her hands with affection. How does the lyrics of that song go, I was thinking to myself:
"The lady in red is dancing with me, cheek to cheek
There's nobody here, it's just you and me
It's where I want to be
But I hardly know this beauty by my side
I'll never forget the way you look tonight”
I didn’t really want to interrupt them as they were so engulfed in a kind special moment together. So I placed her small red purse in a better place, and quietly waved bye.
I have now gone over that night in my head many times, as I came to find out my doctor had passed the following day in a bike accident. A kind of gasping for air came over me, when I realized what had happened. It is a feeling of loosing a friend you just made, and all the potential that goes with that. I thought about his hand shake, and wondered how many times in the course of his life he had literally and figuratively reached down into somebody's heart and saved their lives. That a person who dedicates their life to healing others, has to be giving so much of themselves every single day. I thought about the instant connection that serving in the military gives you with someone you just met, you have a kinship that is really hard to describe. And I thought about how humble, yet elegant he seemed that night. I felt I had been given the privilege to spend one of his last beautiful days here, and how I will never forget him but rather tuck his smile directly into my own heart. I am thinking about his lady in red, and how symbolic everything feels. I hope she knows, we were touched by how much joy and fun they had in each other’s arms that night. That I sat with a person and really engaged him in a way I haven’t had the opportunity to do in a long time without distractions.
And I am thinking how sometimes I really can’t grasp when things happen that feel immensely hard and intertwined with sorrow. I know this though, that I feel there was a strong purpose for me to be able to sit right next to him that night, and that it was a blessing that God put me at table 11. I know that he had a wonderful night and his life was filled with so much that he valued, that many people struggle to ever experience those things he genuinely had. Our time here is finite, and I am sure that more than most he was aware of this. Our time is also the most meaningful by the depth at which it is lived, and I am positive he lived every moment of it with a sense of depth. I am reminded of a quote I heard a long time ago. When actor Heath Ledger passed his then girlfriend said in an interview something to the effect, that she had always thought it was most important in life to be very serious about thing in life, but after his passing she realized it was more important to work for happiness or joy.
Dr. Cassidy, thank you for a brilliant night and for the gift of your presence and sharing the joy of your life.