Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday - Mortality and Pride

It is a worthwhile story that can both remind us of our own human mortality and our own human pride.

The local lefty community paper, the Prairie Dog, posted a story on their blog about the death of Dorothy Alvina Hennig.

Most people in Regina knew Dorothy - at least by sight. Few of us knew, or cared, that her name was Dorothy.

Dorothy was a sight. She would walk around the downtown in a beige trenchcoat with a scarf on her head and far, far too much makeup - far too much and badly done. I don't think she actually lived "on the street," but she was clearly a woman who did not fit in.

My kids and I ended up, uncomfortably, sharing a table with her at a fall supper once. She didn't say a word to us the whole time, not even in response to our greetings. In all the years I was aware of her (I can't really say "knew her") I only once heard her make any sound at all - and then it was an odd sort of screech when she seemed to be thinking that someone was about to steal her bag.

But it turns out that there was more to Dorothy.
  • In 1958, Dorothy was the valedictorian of her high school graduating class.
  • She studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto - as well as the Walter Thornton Modelling School.
  • She worked as a musician and a opera singer in London and Paris.
  • Illness (the obituary implies but does not say mental illness) brought her home to Regina in 1967.
Dorothy's death reminds me of my mortality.

Dorothy's obituary reminds me that, for all that I may want to be inclusive and accepting and a proper Christian, I never was able to see Dorothy as more than "other" - to my shame.

I'm off, shortly, to preside at the Ash Wednesday liturgy, to remind those who come and to remind myself that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.

And to remember that, in between, we are God's precious children - no matter what.

Today, I think I shall offer this mass with an intention for the repose of the soul of Dorothy Alvina Hennig, accomplished artist and beloved child of God.


Ann said...

Thanks Malcolm -- good thoughts to carry us into Lent.

Ann Marie said...

It's often the "other" that have the most interesting stories that teach us the most about life. It's one of the reasons I love community ministry. One has to work on a consistant ministry of presence and build significant trust before they will open up but the richness in their stories and insights makes the time and effort well worth it.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Thank you.

Janet said...

Hi Malcolm,
You weren't the only one surprised by her past. She was in the library most everyday, and didn't say much either...We provided a safe place for her. Some of us at the library are going to make donations to the Canadian Mental Health Assoc in her memory.
I never talked to her but did share the peace with her once at St. Pauls
I have learned a "lot" from this obit...mostly to reach out, say hello and smile.
Thanks for posting...
Janet Craig
PS her last name is Hennig

Malcolm+ said...

Thanks for catching the typo, Janet. I spelled it right the first time and wrong the second. She deserves to have her name spelled correctly.

Anonymous said...

When I went to Marvel Beauty School, Dorothy came in once a week faithfully . Unfortunately some people did not want to do her hair, some were scared of her, some could not stand her scent, like mothball perfume. I washed and combed her extremely long hair and put it back in the bun that she loved. She had to have her hair done this way and she watched every move I made in the mirror to make sure I got it just so. I would get her to speak,a little. Dorothy would ask for me by name every week. I always told her that one day, I would get her to try a different hairstyle, that day never came.I always liked Dorothy and you have to respect her intelligence for if it wasn't for her outlandish make up to force people to notice her, this article would not have been written.
RIP Dorothy

theiconoclast said...

"(but)for her outlandish make-up (so that)people would notice her...) To be noticed: a pallid substitute for belonging indeed; the very instrument because of which she was condemned to otherness. Our deepest need is to belong, yet how implacably society tries to strip us of real individuality and ,thereby, of any hope of authentic belonging. Any who stubbornly resist are most at risk. The mind implodes and cannot hold/ Adieu to those once brave and bold.

Anonymous said...

I am so touched by Dorothy's life story. I as well was one of those that "noticed" her, but never took the time to get to know her. Just the opportunity to serve her coffee on occasion. How I wish I could have heard her voice, I'm told she still sang more singing angel in heaven....RIP Dorothy.