Dearest Pinkies, it is our honor to re-introduce to you Nancy Slonim Aronie, our teacher, hero, and friend. It was at Nancy's workshop at Esalen that Joy and I met two years ago. This is a woman who was Owning Pink before either of us was even born. Ever-present in Nancy's inspiring anecdotes at the soul of the workshop was her son, Dan. Dan passed away a few weeks ago, and Nancy wrote a eulogy that captures him so well, we couldn't not share it with you. Most of all, her writing demonstrates the incredible power of love, the capacity of the heart, and the eternal nature of the spirit- how Pink is that? Thank you, Pinkies, for helping us hold space for and honor Nancy, Dan, and the Aronie family.
There were so many Dan Aronies. And on January 29th at 1:21 in the morning on the fullest brightest moon of the whole year, one month after his 38th birthday, with his brother and his father present , we lost them all.
You might have known the little guy with dark eyes and long hair (which his grandmother always begged me to cut - “he looks like a street urchin!”) and ribs that stuck out (“people will think you don’t feed him!”), who followed his big brother Josh everywhere, who could be found juggling with his father on Lucy Vincent Beach or hitching rides with the likes of Harrison Ford.
Or you might have known the little fisherman always on the jetty at dawn or late at night (while his mother … me ... worried about whether he had eaten his snack and was in the middle of a diabetic reaction, had fallen over and was at the bottom of the ocean. Dan was diagnosed with diabetes at 9 months old and became a rebel about an hour later.
You might have known the inventive, creative survivor Dan who taught his fellow young diabetics how to cheat on their urine tests: “don’t put any drops of pee in the beeker. They wont know the difference and the results will set you free. Think chocolate.”
Maybe the guy you knew was the angry contrary funny Dan, the Dan who drove his boat too fast, rolled two cars, skied recklessly, loved girls wholeheartedly, played his violin passionately (not always accurately). That Dan lasted for most of his young adult life. You might have known him at Bard College when he was starring in View from the Bridge or driving his motorcycle down 9G when he was supposed to be studying for exams.
Or maybe you were there when he was diagnosed with MS at 22 and the anger turned white hot.
But for many of you here on the Vineyard, you most likely knew him in his early stages of losing his “abilities to do anything!!!!!” (his words, screamed often). When he couldn’t hold a cue stick anymore, couldn’t make the steps in the Ritz , when he could no longer drive, when his short-term memory started going, when his speech started slurring, a new Dan was emerging.
If you had been a visiting nurse you might have been met with a tirade of 4 letter words (so now let us thank you for every loving moment you spent with Dan). You may have seen him through two brain surgeries that didn’t work, one open-heart surgery that did. You may have noticed a softening, an accepting, a surrendering. For those of us close to that Dan, he became a Teacher. We got to see how a person changes, actually takes lemons, squeezes the life out of them, cuts away the rotten parts and turns out the sweetest tartest most delicious lemonade ever thought possible.
I once asked Dan, “can you say why you stopped being angry?” His answer was so simple but so profound. He said, “I noticed that being angry didn’t help anything.” Hello.
When Dan’s bedsores prevented him from getting up and out and he became bedridden, he never complained. He got even funnier if such a thing is possible. One night I stood at the end of his bed and I, said “Good night o king of kings,” and I did an exaggerated bow. And then I said, “Good night o lord of lords,” and I bowed again. And without skipping a beat he said, “Good night o fruit of loops.”
One day I arrived to the ubiquitous ambulances that knew 111 Leonard Circle by heart (and let me now thank every paramedic who ever crossed his threshold!). I raced in to find Dan already strapped on the gurney, I leaned in to see how bad it was. I said, “Danzer how are you, baby boy? And when he tried to say something, Alison, the caregiver of the century, raised the oxygen mask and Dan, barely conscious, sang “A three hour tour” from Gilligan’s Island – one of the mantras he repeated to describe his life.
Four months ago, Dan got his third bout of pneumonia and was air lifted to Mass General where he was in the intensive care unit for four weeks. He was intubated and communicated with only his eyebrows and his dancing eyes. He had a tracheotomy and a feeding tube. He was transferred to rehab in Salem where he spent another four weeks not really recuperating, but when he was stable they let him come home. And this community and the love and the energy and the support poured in, and it looked as if the Miracle Man was going to beat the odds again. He managed to fight two fevers on his own and he was looking stronger and stronger and healthier and healthier.
But then he got another fever. And this one brought him down. Five days before he died, a dear friend said, ”Dan on a scale from 1 to 10, where are you?” Mind you, he couldn’t talk, but with his signature grin and his twinkling eyes, he mouthed “ELEVEN!”
That’s the Dan he became. A solid 11. And to quote Dan himself… not too shabby.
Thank you, Nancy, for sharing the story of this incredible human and the journey you went on together. Remember, Pinkies, you don't need to wait until someone dies to honor their life. Nancy did this with Dan every day by sharing him with her workshops, and later with the world through the documentary they made about him. Have you considered writing a eulogy for someone who is still around -- or someone who left a long time ago to whom you didn't say goodbye the way you would now? Let us know your thoughts, and again, thank you for helping us honor this special Pinkie in our lives.
Honoring all the angels - on earth and beyond ...
Lissa and Joy
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