Week 41 – Little Bits of Sunshine

Happy Memorial Day, Celebrationists! Hope you’re having a great one.

  1. I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend this past weekend back in Florida – seeing opening weekend of The Tempest: Esta isla es mia, at freefall Theatre Company.  I had my batteries recharged, was moved by the exceptional performance, heart, and vulnerability of a very dear person, and had the chance to see lots of people who I miss very much
  2. I am grateful to be part of two readings this week in New York, sponsored by a theater that means a lot to me. Having something creative to do during my last week before I head to the Ozarks for the summer is really a blessing
  3. I am grateful for having a free day to memorize, plan out my week, do research, and stay where it is quiet, for most of the day

Today I am writing about a GBD (Good-Bit-Do-er, for any who may just be joining us) who just passed from this life to the next.  She was a very special woman, and though most of you reading this will have never met her, perhaps you’ve known your own Sunny Fader, and will glean something personal from this story.  I write today in her memory, and in honor of her incredible life – and the short part of it I was lucky enough to share.

I lived with Sunny for about two and a half months in 2013. I was in Florida doing A Christmas Carol, and was housed with her during the contract, instead of at the actor condo/cast-housing that I’d stayed at several times before.

The things that struck me most about Sunny – in a first-impression kind of way: she was beautiful.  She was generous. She was very funny. And she loved to talk.

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My first weeks at Sunny’s took some negotiation on my part – I’m definitely an independent introvert, and Sunny struck me as a classic extrovert.  I would later find out that she didn’t identify this way necessarily, but that she felt really comfortable talking with me.  I would get home from rehearsal and we would stay up talking for four and five hours at a time. She would tell me stories about her life and experiences as a screenwriter, producer, writer, artist, mother, and sister, and we would wax poetic about the deep thoughts that seemed to run through both our brains on a frequent basis – trading ideas from the many spiritual and self-help type books that we enjoyed.

She gave me copies of two of the books that she wrote and self published, “Land Here? You Bet”, and ”The Cat that Loved Dogs.” Reading these stories was like cracking open an even more intimate part of who Sunny was.   She was an incredible story teller.

We also discussed nutrition a lot, because Sunny was experimenting with different ways to help herself feel great.  She had this incredible blender that I loved, and I often woke up to post-it notes like this one. This is the kind of thoughtful she was, and the kind of thing she would do:

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Sunny also had two small dogs. I’m a huge dog fan, and “the girls” were affectionate little protectors.  They worshipped Sunny. Anytime a car, person, or other animal got anywhere NEAR the house, they would yap their little hearts out in an effort to make sure Sunny knew that someone was approaching…or passing by.  Always at her side (but willing to accept rubs, love, and walks from me) they were a constant source of amusement, one I got past the early morning wake-up barks : )

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Sunny and Tinker, as a puppy

Living in Sunny’s house was a lesson for me in a lot of ways.

Generosity – apart from making smoothies, sharing meals, books, YouTube videos, wisdom, and transportation, Sunny was generous in other ways. Most of her later work as a writer was dedicated to telling other people’s stories.  She had a dream of creating workshops that would help people write their own memoirs, developing their life stories into written legacies that they could leave behind.  She also had several books that she was writing for other people, too – turning the documentation of their own lives into beautiful and seamless chapters of text. She had a great deal of empathy and could capture their voices, dreams, and hearts as if by magic.  She was always interested in other people’s stories. She was endlessly generous to her neighbors, family, and everyone I experienced her crossing paths with.

Laughter – I laughed a lot with Sunny. She was someone who had been through a lot in her life and understood that to get through it, a great deal of humor and grace contributed to her resilience.

Being Open-minded – During the time I lived with Sunny, I sometimes struggled with what happened when my “plan” was disrupted.  If I came home from rehearsal and spent four hours talking with Sunny instead of working on a particular project I had planned for the evening, I would get really frustrated with myself.  Almost panicked by my lack of self-control or ability to “get things done.” Sometimes I missed out on how much better it was that I sit with this woman and really learn something about the world.  So much of the beauty and magic of who Sunny was embedded itself even more deeply in me after I lived with her.

A steady commitment to work – Every day Sunny woke up early, walked the dogs, made a good breakfast, and sat down at her computer and settled in for many hours of writing.  She would sit there hard at work for long stretches, speaking softly aloud, reading and re-reading passages of text while the dogs listened with such love that you almost believed they could understand every word.

Self Improvement – From her writing, to her life as a parent (and dog parent!), future goals…there was something about Sunny that was always striving.  Always interested in knowing more, doing more, creating more – and she managed to exist this way with great humility and compassion. I was always inspired by her example that at ANY age, growth is possible – and important.

And then that thing happened – which happens, I imagine to probably more people than just myself – My contract in Florida ended and I went back to New York.  Sunny and I would speak a few times on the phone, and then eventually not very often.  I visited her once or twice after that, during subsequent contracts in Florida – bringing my parents over, and introducing them to her…and then less and less, as time went on.

Have you ever had a friend who…a certain amount of time passes, you haven’t been in touch for one reason or another, and then you feel guilty or ashamed, so you can’t bring yourself to pick up the phone at all? It’s completely counter-intuitive, because you want to reach out, but in your own human embarrassment, pride, whatever….you don’t do it.

This last time I was in Florida from late March through early May – just weeks ago, really.  I became engaged with other relationships, the time flew by, and I didn’t reach out to Sunny at all.  Yesterday I found out that she passed on, on May 21st.  I didn’t even know about the health issues she was struggling with in April – when I was there. I had no idea at all.

I don’t tell you this last part to shame myself, or to pack any kind of manipulative emotional punch.  I tell you this because it happened, and because I really wish that I would have put my own nonsense aside, and reached out to Sunny.

If there’s a person you’re scared to reach out to in your life, maybe consider why you haven’t.  A 10 minute phone call is such a small act, but can mean the world. We are constantly reminded how short life is.  It’s so easy to look at these reminders and put them in the “I’ll deal with it later” pile.

She really lived up to her name, and was pure sunshine to so many.  She was a teacher, mentor, mother-figure, Tai-Chi buddy, breakfast companion, writer, nurturer, story-teller, and so much more. To read a lovely little tribute to Sunny, check out this blog post by Jackie Minniti, and also consider browsing through the many beautiful thoughts on Sunny’s Website.

I recently found out that a story Sunny was working on, and had graciously shared with me, was published in the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul Anthology: Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Hope and Miracles.  Her story is called The Spoon.  I promise you it’s more than worth the read : )

I wanted to leave you with one of the last things Sunny posted on her Facebook wall.  It’s the kind of wisdom she was committed to sharing, and speaks so much about who she was.

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2 thoughts on “Week 41 – Little Bits of Sunshine

  1. Beverly Straight

    This is beautifully written, Kelly. Pat and I live seven houses down from Sunny and remember how delighted she was at having you as her house guest. Sometimes you just hit the jackpot. This tribute to Sunny would please her because she held you in such high regard.

    Reply
  2. Rachel

    I am Sunny’s granddaughter, and I came upon this article. Just wanted to comment and say that I love reading this because it puts a smile on my face. You did a nice job explaining how incredible she was!

    Reply

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