"Do I dare disturb the universe?"
~T.S. Eliot

Sunday, July 8, 2012

In memorium for Jason Lindahl

Lately I’ve been a little out of sorts and feeling a bit multiple-personalitied, not because of anything related to Interlochen, but due to an unrelated tragedy regarding friend.

I found out on Friday at a friend who was very dear to me in college passed, having taken his own life.  His name was Jason Lindahl, and he was a Theatre-Lighting Design major at U of I.  He most-recenly lived in New York and worked lighting and video-projections on Broadway (the most well-known project being Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark).  I first met him when on crew for November Playhouse Dance my freshman year, his junior year.  He taught me how to.....basically run an efficient gel crew, shifting, operate spotlights, and the basics of lighting design.  I developed an intense crush on his incredibly nerd-tastic and adorable self, and I’m pretty sure I stalked Krannert Level 2 in hopes of just running into him there.  We continued to become close friends throughout the next year, working on multiple student and theatre/dance department shows together—He designed an absolutely brilliant Bernstein’s Mass, and I took a bit of personal pride in being a part of the production and just “being friends with that awesome lighting designer.”  When we talked together, our conversations were filled with laughter and smiles, and we got each other because we would talk geekily of quantum physics, science and art, being band nerds (formerly, or for me, current), and theatre or dance lingo.

We continued to be in close touch when he graduated and moved to New York, and when our mutual affection became clear, we briefly dated, attempting a pseudo long-distance….not official relationship but something or another.  He was the kind of person who had an amazingly beautiful heart, a good and kind person to the depths of his soul.  I felt very deeply for him, but it became clear that distance wasn’t going to work.  When I moved on, I still always remembered our time together with no bitterness--nothing but fondness.

This is how I remember him
I was able to become and maintain friends with the woman he chose for his too-short life, Ya-han, a beautiful, talented young woman who we both had known at U of I as well. I realized how perfect they were for each other, and felt true happiness that they could be together in New York.  I am saddened and feel awful that I was not in great touch with Jason minus a few texts or facebook messages here and there, for the last two years or so, not for any particular reason, but just living in different places and having different, busy lives.  I was actually probably in better touch with Ya-han than I was with Jason (perhaps because she was on facebook often).  They married last year, I believe while I was in Israel, and their engagement and wedding photos filled me with joy.  I was so happy that they found each other and were able to provide for each other in a way that was so loving, fitting and beautiful.  Their beautiful baby Arya who was born last year is the most gorgeous of infants, seeming like Ya-han in her eyes, Jason in her baby face and smile….It seemed from the outside like they could be poster children for the perfect, artistic melting pot of a new American family.

I cannot begin to grasp what happened, why, or how suddenly this beautiful portrait shattered.  Next thing we all know, we are reading email threads and news reports that his body was found washed up by the Hudson river.  It is incomprehensible and unreal.

I’ve been in touch both on the phone and through various online communications with friends from U of I.  It’s a comfort to realize we are all going through similar emotions that seem to change every 10 minutes.  One moment just numb with shock and disbelief, another just very sad, and the next, guilty or angry.  Being here at Interlochen, my classes and rehearsals must go on, and I’ve been extremely busy at almost every hour of the day from 9-5.  Sometimes I put this out of my mind for half an hour or an hour, but when I remember it, it hits me in the gut, sometimes even worse than the preceding hours.

I actually just spoke to Ya-han on the phone, and she is amazingly put-together.  I don’t know how she does it.  She is a strong, beautiful, loving, and admirable woman.

I said to one of my friends/co-workers, Patty, something like “It’s weird that this is happening to me here.”  Here, at Interlochen where things are so beautiful, where I think of it as a peaceful haven, and now that peace is being wrecked with death and sadness.  She said, “well maybe it’s good that it’s happening here, of all places, where people are connected to emotions and compassion.” I’ve been realizing what she meant.  My kids that I teach have been amazing.  They cheer me up in unbelievable ways, and even though I only told one of my classes (the one that I had to teach right after finding out), I feel like all of my classes have come together in a place of more intense bonding, and they have been open with their warmth and affection toward me and their enthusiasm toward dancing.

I’ve been attending band, orchestra, and choir concerts as refuge.  (I’m reminded of how on September 11, 2001, I was in band and choir class when the towers fell, and how the bond of musicians provided me some comfort—this idea of comfort through music has been fresh on my mind because I recently delivered an alumni speech at DHS with this main point)  Here, I feel it’s the same.  The arts are healing, and are helping to buoy me up even when I feel like my head is spinning into a downward spiral of sadness.  I only wish that Jason had felt the same comfort….

And even when I feel like sitting at home and wallowing in melancholy, I’ve forced myself to go out with my coworkers and appreciate our time together.  Whether we are going out for a drink or just sitting in the staff office together, my fellow staff and musicians have given me many hugs and gentle touches along the way.  Even just a light squeeze touch on the shoulder can mean so much.  I appreciate them immensely, and am grateful for their support.

I am performing in a piece in the faculty concert next Thursday, choreographed by Matt Lindstrom, to the song Tornado, by Jonsi.  The song and the choreography reflect what Matt called “being so beautiful on the outside but destructive on the inside.”  It’s a completely coincidence that this lines up so perfectly, thematically.  Personally, I am dedicating my performance to him, wishing I could have provided him some shelter from the storm.

If you are one of the people here that has lent a hand during the past few days, I cannot thank you enough.  Your support helped me hold everything together so I could continue to be a good teacher for the kids, and continually reaffirms that Interlochen continues to be a house of healing.   I am dancing and making my art for the rest of my time here in memory of Jason and all things light and colorful.

"Glass shines--brighter--When it's--broken..."-Bernstein's Mass.

With our friend Annah at a theatre/tech theatre gathering in Urbana
Under some kind of art structure in NYC


  1. Thank you for this. I knew Jason from Krannert while I was getting my Master's in lighting. I just heard about him today, and looking around on Google this was the only place I found that talked about Jason back then, instead of how he was in NYC.

    1. I'm glad you found this meaningful. Thanks for writing back!

  2. I'm so glad I got to meet the fine young woman who wrote such touching words about my dear son. It does a mother's heart proud to see that others saw how special he was. Thank you also for keeping in touch with our daughter Ya-Han. She is indeed an amazing woman, mother and daughter and I ache for her loss as well. Our son was blessed, maybe more than he ever realized, to have her and his daughter in his life. Jama Lindahl

    1. Jama-This made me cry (once again). I'm glad I was able to put into words what he meant to me, and that it may have been a comfort to you and anyone else who reads this. It was wonderful to meet you too, and it was clear to me from where Jason's disposition came. Ya-han might have told you, we are planning a Chicago-memorial on the 11th if you decide to come to the area.