I have been dancing and teaching dance for the majority of my life, which means that I have met so many wonderful dancers along the way. Our paths don’t always continue to cross after they leave the dance studio where I teach, but thanks to social media, I often follow along their adventures from afar. I get to see their lives through the filtered lens of whatever they choose to post—knowing that every person’s story is so much more than just the highlights (and occasional lowlights) that are curated for a social platform.
In the past year, I witnessed both the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows of one former dancer/fellow dance teacher, Alyssa Patterson, who married the man of her dreams in early June 2021, and then tragically became a widow three weeks later. I saw the stunning photos of her wedding party, followed by gut-wrenching posts by other mutual friends and her family members who helped her mourn the loss of a cherished relationship.
“Unfortunately, these painful seasons aren’t escapable—this side of heaven, that is. In fact, here on earth, it is quite the opposite. Here they’re inevitable.“Until Heaven Parts Us (2022) p.156
For a time, Alyssa’s social media channels went understandably dark. I had taught dance to her younger sister, with whom I was also connected on social and would occasionally see updates on how Alyssa was doing. In a small, distant way, I mourned her loss. I shared her story with some of my friends and family members, heartbroken that someone so lovely had experienced such deep pain.
Last fall, my best friend mentioned she saw a new account pop up on Instagram—The Chick Inn. Alyssa was making a return to social media, using her talent for writing to express the raw newness of a life marred by grief, but fueled by faithful hope.
Over the past year, she shared her experiences of selling the home she bought with her husband to start fresh at a new property with chickens (and now ducks)! She shared snapshots from her wedding anniversary, which she celebrated in the company of her closest circle of friends. She posted about the Dude 21 foundation, a nonprofit foundation she helped start in memory of her late husband to support firefighters further their careers and support their families. She also gave updates on the book she was writing, Until Heaven Parts Us, which as of this month, was published and printed.
“It is a terrible truth to realize and be humbled in meeting this realization head on—that this life isn’t about our happiness, or dreams come true, but instead it is about our refinement. Making us stronger, more resilient, and brighter in the fire etching us into a perfect creation.”Until Heaven Parts Us (2022) p. 156-157
This book is a beautiful lament for a life that was and a life that is. In it, Alyssa poignantly shared her experiences of a very hard year. But despite the interwoven narrative of death, sadness and grief, she so wonderfully turns her mourning into dancing, through her own words as well as those of Scripture. She unpacks many passages of the Bible as they relate to her story; reminding the reader that in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part, God provides support, encouragement, love and inspiration for all of us to navigate the best of times and the worst of times.
This book may be for you if you also like: memoirs; personal narrative; faith; poetry; love stories; addressing and processing through grief; C.S. Lewis; Christianity; chickens; supportive widowhood; nonfiction.