Two weeks ago the community celebrated and grieved the life and death of John DeLazzari, a beloved former assistant. In many stories and memories we told how he was valued, precious and loved by his friends.
We heard that he was a mentor who with consistency and compassion modelled the ideal of a L’Arche relationship of mutuality. Patrick Brisbois said John “knew how to be a friend and always thought of the other person”. Kathy Kelly recalled his creativity, humour and innovation as a Spirit Movers’ dancer. Michel Barrett vocalized his deep and loyal friendship with John.
Chris Jarvis remembered this special relationship between Michael and John in a film that is used to introduce Daybreak to new assistants and school groups. John’s dialogue with Michael is an example of sensitive and authentic companionship. In the closing scene, their unique relationship is shown with John racing down the laneway pushing Michael in his wheelchair both with expressions of immense joy and total freedom.
Having worked together for 5 years and with a continuous friendship of over 15 years, each knew the physical limits and endurance of the other and trusted each other completely. What perhaps looked risky was actually a secure relationship taken to the limits of each other’s abilities through their mutual trust. John’s ultimate concern was always creating a place of safety for Michael within which he could live his potential.
John and Michael danced together in the Spirit Movers and sometimes the improvised choreography had them careening around the stage with delight – theirs and the audience’s. There is something in that physical image of apparent danger (for dramatic effect) – both aware that there was a risk in the physical gesture but each willing to take that risk to experience a spirit-filled answer or moment of truth – one that brought a sense of total freedom and joy in the shared mutual dependence on the other.
Writing in the New York Times this month, a dance critic describes a dance group called ‘Disabled Theatre” that is opening this November in New York. A French choreographer, Jerome Bel, is said to be pushing the boundaries of contemporary dance by collaborating with Theater Hora, a Zurich company that includes those with disabilities – exploring the concept of normality, questioning “the notions of handicaps and abnormality with his seemingly innocent gaze and understated showmanship”.
This could describe John and Michael on stage – “seemingly innocent gaze and understated showmanship”. The critic writes “In doing so he (Bel) reveals the disturbing, uncomfortable point at which fragility and strength meet.” (Gia Kourlas, The New York Times, Sept 8, 2013)
This sounds like the image of John and Michael racing and careening together at the point where they meet as two dancers, two athletes, two friends – trusting and knowing who they are by the answer given from the other. “You are my friend. You are safe in this place of trust we share. You are loved.”
Revealing our fragility and insecurity in a relationship takes the strength of trust – and at this point of mutuality is the answer, often expressed simply in a gesture or presence, in freedom and complete joy in being known and acknowledged as loved.
Watch the following video dedicated to John and Michael’s friendship by a close friend of both, Deiren Masterson: