Dancing Doctor Exits Too Soon

March 11th, 2009 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

 The world was not through with Michael Shannon. If anyone was leaning toward immortality in his love of life and those around him, as well as in physical vigor, Dr. Shannon was he.

The Dancing Doctor as the Boston Globe‘s story calls him was returning with his wife and another couple from a tango trip. They took lessons together in Argentina. Family friend Nancy Teumer said, “This was the trip of their lifetime. They had the time of their life, dancing all day and all night.”

Nutcracker rehearsalHe, the former professional dancer of great vitality, collapsed as they changed planes in New York.

We often seek mitigation if not meaning in such cruel surprises. That could include guarded thanks that he died suddenly without prolonged pain and medical intervention. That would be scant comfort to his wife and friends.

I admit that it was the right way for my mother to go. She did go suddenly and some of us can conceive that she somehow made that happen. She dropped dead of a heart attack traveling between her bathroom and bedroom while preparing to lunch with a friend. The coroner said she looked very surprised and did not have time to hurt.

After caring for her sister following removal of a massive brain tumor, first at home and then in daily visits to a long-term facility in Santa Fe, my mother was solidly in the camps of:

  • I want to die in my own home
  • I don’t want tubes in my arms and nose
  • I don’t want anyone wiping my butt

She got her wishes and there will be those who surmise that was also the right exit for Michael. It just should not have been his time for so many reasons.

I was one who got the call early, from leaders of our church. He and Elaine also attended First Parish in Brookline. The call came to me as a parent of youth who had been through the rigorous Our Whole Lives (OWL) relationship/sex ed program that UU and UCC churches use.

As I understand he was with children and parents in his roles at Childrens Hospital,  Michael was the run-away favorite teacher of the youth and their parents in OWL. Funny, energetic and knowledgeable, he was at once the expert teacher and a comrade.

By coincidence, it also fell to me to inform a mutual friend. I had gone to undergraduate school with Jasper. He and Michael met at Duke a few years later, as Jasper got his masters in psychology and Michael finished his M.D. They were in regular folk dancing programs together. They re-met a couple of years ago when Jasper attended the UU Coming of Age program at First Parish. My youngest was one who completed the program and the old grad-school  dancers learned that they had each moved to the Boston area.

Last night, Jasper was shocked as we all have been.

Let us praise Michael Shannon. Professionally and personally, he turned the spigots on full for his talent, enthusiasm and caring.

Followup: Word is that Michael had a blood clot that migrated and ended his life.

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3 Responses

  1. Ramona says:

    I’m heartily sorry for your loss, and the loss to Boston. I read a news snippet this week that said statistics show there are more heart attacks in the week after the change to spring daylight saving time than normal. A dangerous week, though I don’t know the cause of Dr. Shannon’s death so I’m drawing a tenuous connection here.

  2. Whew … silence … “Blessed to be born and to live as variously as possible.” … ‘Dancing Doctor exits too soon.’
    I send to you and all my heartfelt condolences.

  3. Hastaneler says:

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