What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
— Native American wisdom
She’s been gone a decade as of today, May 19, 2010. An entire village — men, women and especially children — turned out to celebrate the life of the Mayor of Cocoa Village. Not an elected title, mind you. More of a proclaimed one, a nickname if you will.
If you passed through Cocoa Village the first decade of this century it’s likely you were touched by Andrea Rose in some way. She was at every concert, every art show, farmer’s market and city celebration.
A mother arrived with two children who had met the Mayor days before her death. They had to come celebrate her life, the mother said, sharing the indelible impression Andrea made with a single act of kindness toward them.
This day all the children were hugged a little tighter; our looks lingered on their faces with a bit more love.
The service lasted hours, filled with a thousand tears of sorrow and equal peals of laughter yet not a single yawn. An overflowing crowd, more than 500, filled the Black Tulip restaurant. Tables and chairs inserted anywhere they’d fit, buffet tables groaned. A makeshift sound-stage erected on the adjacent patio. French doors flung wide between the two areas.
The call came days after I’d moved to Colorado; one hand already packing to fly back home before her mother Doreen asked me to lead the memorial service.
Andrea was fashionable, intuitive; she wrote poetry, stories and songs. She danced. She sparkled, she laughed, she loved. She sang, acted, played the guitar, painted canvases and molded clay. She even created her own line of aromatherapy products, Andrea’s Tropical Delights. Her legacy lives on in her creations and in us.
The day of her celebration, I did my best to sum up Andrea Rose’s life — all she accomplished in nine and three quarter years — anchored by a Jack Kornfield quote:
“In the end these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?”
People came forward, shared their most precious memory of Andrea. In between speakers, over my left shoulder on the patio, a seamless rotation of musicians and singers played one or two of Andrea Rose’s favorite songs.
Andrea Rose hit all the highlights of the things that “matter most.” And yet I still don’t remember the first time I met her. It’s like trying to remember the first time you saw the sun rise.
Did we meet on one of my frequent trips to her mother’s store where she pointed out the books she was enjoying, shared her latest aromatherapy blends, danced or drummed in a rhythmic trance at a drum circle, or confidently (and correctly) proclaimed I would have the winning ticket at an acoustic concert?
Was it at All That Jazz, my friend Peter Wells’ diner, where good food and live music swayed hand in hand and where Andrea Rose mastered balancing a spoon on her nose the very first time? She spent the rest of the evening wandering table to table, demonstrating the ease of doing the seemingly impossible, proving such miracles could be sustained for hours.
Was it at my spiritual center, The Gathering at Cocoa Village, where I once walked down from my manse dressed for our weekly service, just as she entered the church? There she stood, all of six years old, both hands on her hips, her white t-shirt sparkling with rainbow hearts filled with L-O-V-E, rocking a tutu and a pair of pink Uggs. Her big brown eyes took in my black dress pants and my white button-up dress shirt in a single sweeping motion: “Is that what you’re wearing?”
Or was it at the Cocoa Village Riverfront Park where she used to jump into the water-sprouts on opening day fully clothed, fully alive, present and infused with pure joy?
Each encounter we shared encapsulated the full life of Andrea Rose.
As her dad Tod put it, “Andrea Rose loved all, had faith in all and lived with heartfelt passion.”
Some think the life of a child is cut short when they die. I don’t think that was true of Andrea Rose at all. She crammed more living in nine and 3/4 years than most of us do in ninety-three.
With that in mind, I’ve spent the last decade saying yes to things that feed my spirit, bring me alive, challenge my limited thinking about myself and the world. I’ve learned to be impish and inclusive; to command the universe to create my dreams, and to wander through life as if my fingertips are filled with sparkles.
I honor Andrea Rose’s memory and her message with my playful nature and zestful willingness to be here now. I task myself to be precociously irreverent, ethereally grounded. To give myself away to laughter and dance, embracing the parts of me that are deep and nuanced as well as the shallow and silly.
To live every day from the fullness of being alive.
From that vantage, I embrace life’s infinite possibilities, adventures, connections, opportunities. They all unfold new gifts. The gift of forgiveness, the gift of understanding, the gift of creation, the gift of love.
In numerology, the soul number for Andrea Rose’s departure date was 1. So was her arrival date. Now she’s been gone from this life longer than she was in it. At the same time, she’ll always be here. Because her life was lived to remind us every day of what deep down we already know: We are all One.
Candid photos provided by family and friends of Andrea Rose.
Portrait in purple dress (and with white flower) by Greg Biolchini.