Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 7th 2014 Contents she was having a reception in his
honour. There are friends and fam-
ily telling Geoffrey stories simul-
taneously laughing and crying in
"Hi, honey, Are you all right?"
"Yes, actually... he hasn't
stopped breathing yet." I tell her
about his solo, which brings her
to a smile and a lightening of
mood. I continue:
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure, honey. What?
"Who the hell did you marry?"
"What do you mean?"
"You're not gonna believe this.
He's got a morphine drip, going
on over half an hour, an oxygen
mask on, his eyes closed, and he's
This brings her to her first laugh
of the day. She now knows we will
be all right.
He continues on like this for
quite a while, and a doctor comes
in to take some meter readings of
the machines. I ask the doctor if
this is normal. As she begins to
explain to me about the process,
his closed eyes burst open, focused
straight on us like lasers and he
roars with all his might: "Shut
up!!! You're breaking my concen-
We freeze with our mouths
open. He stares us down. long and
Then he closes his eyes again,
"Arms, two, three, four, Turn, two,
three, four, Swing, two, three, four,
Down, two, three, four..."
He continued counting 'til it
faded out, leaving only the sound
of faint breathing, slowing down
to his very last breath at 9.25 pm.
Still Geoffrey Holder.
The most incredible night of my
Thank you for indulging me.
Love & best,
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, October 7, 2014
CONTINUES FROM PAGE A29
"We're still on. But he still wants to
do it now. Not later. He's cranky. Sulks
a while. Sleeps a while. Eventually snaps
out of it.
From noon, a caravan of friends and
family from all over the globe come
through the ICU wing. Ages one to 80.
Young designers and artists he nurtured
and who inspired him. Younger dancers
he encouraged to always play to the
rear balcony with majesty. The now
"elder statesmen" dancers on whom
he built some of his signature ballets.
His rat pack of buddies. Wayward saints
he would offer food, drink, a shoulder
to cry on, a couch to sleep it off, and
lifetime's worth of deep conversation
and thought. Closest and oldest friends.
They know they are here to say good-
bye. He knows they are here to say
goodbye. He greets them beaming with
joy to see them. By this time I'm reading
his lips better and am able to translate
for him as much as I can. The last of
them leave. It's time for his one true
love to have her time with him. His
muse. Her champion. This is their time.
Fifty-nine years distilled into five min-
utes of the gentlest looks and words
as she caresses his noble brow one last
time. She puts a note she wrote to him
in is hand. She leaves.
Everyone is gone except me. My
moment. I will be with him as he goes.
One more time: "You good?" Nod
and faint smile. "You ready?" He is.
I have asked the doctors to not start
the morphine drip right away, because
I want him to have his solo on his own
time. Knowing him, he might stop
breathing right after his finale. For dra-
matic effect. He's still Geoffrey Holder.
They remove the tube that has
imprisoned him for the past nine days
and robbed this great communicator
of the ability to speak. I remove the
mittens that prevent his hands from
I start the music, take his hands and
start leading him, swaying them back
and forth. And he lets go of me. He's
gonna wing it as he was prone to do
when he was younger. Breathing on his
own for the last time, Geoffrey Holder,
eyes closed, performs his last solo to
Bill Evans playing Faure's Pavane. From
his deathbed. The arms take flight, his
beautiful hands articulate through the
air, with grace. I whisper "shoulders"
and they go into an undulating shimmy,
rolling like waves. His Geoffrey Holder
head gently rocks back and forth as he
stretches out his right arm to deliver
his trademark finger gesture, which
once meant, "You can't afford this"
and now is a subtle manifestation of
pure human spirit and infinite wisdom.
His musical timing still impeccable,
bouncing off the notes, as if playing
his own duet with Evan's piano. Come
the finale, he doesn't lift himself of the
bed as he planned; instead, one last
gentle rock of the torso, crosses his
arms and turns his head to the side in
a pose worthy of Pavlova. All with a
faint, gentle smile.
The orchestra finishes when he does.
I lose it.
They administer the morphine drip
and put an oxygen mask over his face
and I watch him begin taking his last
I put on some different music. I sit
and watch him sleep, and breathe... 20
minutes later, he's still breathing albeit
with this gurgling sound you can hear
through the mask. Another several min-
utes go by, he's still breathing.
Weakly, but still breathing, then his
right hand starts to move. It looks like
he's using my mother's note like a pen-
cil, scratching the surface of the bed
as if he's drawing. This stops a few
minutes later, then the left hand begins
tapping. Through the oxygen mask the
gurgling starts creating its own rhythm.
Not sure of what I'm hearing, I look
up to see his mouth moving. I get closer
to listen: "Two, three, four...two, three,
He's counting! It gets stronger and
at its loudest, sounds like the deep purr
of a lion, then he says "Arms, two,
three, four, Turn, two, three, four,
Swing, two, three, four, Down, two,
I called my mother at home, where
'...a subtle manifestation of pure
human spirit and infinite wisdom'
Geoffrey Holder and his son Leo painting in their New York apartment when Leo was a child.
PHOTO COURTESY CARMEN DE LAVALLADE
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