Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Supernova Amanda

(by Don Sakers)

Our dear friend Amanda Allen (29 June 1958 - 23 May 2008) died a year and a half ago. Here is something that I wrote for her memorial service.

Supernova Amanda

Richard Bach said, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” Amanda loved that quote, and she knew that we here today were her true family. Amanda had a mundane family and a mundane life, and I mean no disrespect for those -- but like most of us, Amanda’s real life was here, among fans and fandom.

I was privileged to know Amanda more closely than many. For 23 years we shared that “respect and joy in each other’s life.” In a special way, Amanda gave me her life, when she allowed me to turn her into Miranda Maris in Dance for the Ivory Madonna.

The mundane world doesn’t have the words to articulate what Amanda was to me. “Friend,” “Companion,” “Colleague,” Mate,” “Partner,” “Counselor” -- all inadequate, inaccurate, misleading. . The language of sf and fantasy, at least, offers more possibilities: Amanda and I were bredin, droogs, imzadi, water brothers. About the best I can do in Mundane language is to say I’ve lost a sister.

Let me tell you about my sister Amanda.

Amanda was an artist. She lived and breathed creativity, in so many different formats. We all know her costumes, her superb sense of visual composition and decoration; she also wrote, drew, and sang. In Amanda’s hands, the cooking of a meal became a major artistic endeavor. She was an accomplished storyteller.

Amanda had a deep, abiding joy in life. Even when things weren’t going as well as she wanted, she found ways to celebrate and enjoy. When I look back on two decades with Amanda, what I recall most is laughter…the kind of laughter that comes from deep in the soul and rejuvenates the spirit.

Above all, Amanda loved to share her gifts and her joy with others. With her friends, with the generations of kids she cared for…but also, in true fannish fashion, with newcomers and novices. For Amanda, there truly were no strangers – only friends she hadn’t met. If you want an archetypal image of Amanda, imagine her sweeping through the halls in one of her stunning Tudor ensembles, taking the time to stop and sincerely praise the costuming effort of a teenager with a badly-cut tunic and a bedsheet thrown across her shoulders as a cape.

Astronomers tell us that stars come in different types. The ordinary stars burn days after day for billions of years, giving heat & light to the universe. Then there are novas, stars that shine hotter and more brightly. And every so often there is a supernova: a single star that, for a time, outshines the entire galaxy. Amanda was a supernova. She shed her warmth and light across our part of the universe, and though her period was too brief, it was a stunning and beautiful time for all of us who beheld her.

In supernovas, ordinary hydrogen and helium fuse into heavier, exotic elements; then in passing, the supernova spreads these elements across the skies to enrich the universe. All that we know – our Earth, our air, our bodies themselves – are gifts from long-ago supernovas. Similarly, Amanda spread her gifts far and wide, and we will be seeing their effects as long as we live.

One last thing about supernovas: when they are gone, the nebulas they leave behind are among the most stunningly beautiful objects in the sky. And this is true of Supernova Amanda: what she leaves in her place, most of all, is incredible, ineffable beauty.

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M. said...

Thanks, Don. This was lovely to read.

Meerkatdon said...

I should add that at Amanda's memorial service, I couldn't read this essay. I was too choked up. Many thanks to Paul Balze for giving voice to my words.