Pour mon bon ami, le danseur . . .

Posted on February 15, 2011

If I were to characterize the purpose of Doc’s life, I suppose it could be summed up in the words of George Bernard Shaw:

“You see things as they are and ask, “Why?”. I dream things that never were and ask, “Why not?”.

When Daily got diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Manic, I suppose it would have been easy enough for him to listen to what people told him and believe it about himself…things like he would take lots of medications for the rest of his life, he would be in and out of the hospital frequently, that he would never be able to use his education to advantage and work like other folks . . . in other words, that because of his disability, he was going to have to learn to settle for a second-shrift life.

Daily didn’t take those words to heart for long, however. Even though, as anyone of us would do when delivered such pronouncements, I’m sure he struggled with “Why?”, he also reached down inside himself to summon forth every bit of courage, strength, determination and out-and-out chutzpah he could could muster.

It was then that he started asking everyone he could, “Why not?”. Why should he not have the same potential, the same rights, the same chance that everyone else had…if he was willing to work hard for them? Why should any other person with a diagnosis not be able to do the same? Thus began his long journey as an spokesperson, not only for himself, but for others . . . an outspoken, unashamed advocate for the rights of persons with mental illness as a disability.

It was a long road, but in defying the prognosis handed him, he inspired and gave hope to so many other people he met, for whom he was their voice until they found their own voice, for whom he was not only an inspiration, but a source of hope.

Daily saw a lot of things that he felt needed setting right. Instead of letting injustice or stigma defeat him, he only let them spur him on to do more, to be more, to live better. I’m sure some of the things he encountered hurt him deeply, discouraged him, made him wonder if he could really make a difference. He never let any of that embitter him or deter him from his dream. He understood, better than most, the wisdom of the words of Arundhati Roy in the Algebra of Infinite Justice:

The only dream worth having … is to dream that you will live while you’re alive and die only when you’re dead … To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or to complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”

He wrangled with his illness, not letting IT be his master, but learning to master it. Long before his life was over, he had learned to sing, “Hallelulah ” just like Leonard Cohen in this song.

Daily is going to be sorely missed by those he helped with even little things every day that enhanced their lives and made them easier. He’s going to be missed by groups where he shared his dreams, knowledge, insight and experience. He’s going to be missed by friends and family near and far. They’ll miss his courage, his strength, his tenacity…and a man’s heart that was so big, so giving and so caring.

As are all men and women not only their dreams, their aspirations, their vision…so was Doc also a man with a personal life to live squeezed in amongst all he did for other people.

In trying to describe what I knew of Daily away from his work towards his dreams ….I think I’ll have to borrow a few words from Bob Hamm’s “What is A Cajun? “.

On the personal side, more than anything, my good friend Daily Dupre, Jr. was proud of his French heritage. He lived it, he promoted it, he was simply in love with it. He was fun-loving and mischievous…in French, he would correct me, saying “canille ” with a grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye.

Daily liked “fiddles and accordions in his music” and “neighborliness in his neighbors“. He didn’t like people who “didn’t dance enough or enjoy all of the good things God has given us“. He didn’t “like to see people unhappy, and he’d do all he could or give all he had to bring a smile to a face stricken with sadness“. His regular “Saturday nights at the fais-do-do replenished his store of energy and his personal balance so he could meet the next week’s chores with vigor”.

Daily was a ” man of tolerance who will let the world go its way if the world will let him go his. He was a man of great friendliness who would give you the shirt off his back. If he liked you, he’d give you his whole wide, wonderful world. If he didn’t, he’d give you a wide berth.”

Daily was “a complex person, with as many ingredients in his makeup as there were in the gumbo Mama makes for special company. He had tolerance for those who earn it … charity for those who needed it … a smile for those who would return it … and love for all who will share it.

BUT … Daily could be “as stubborn as a mule and as ornery as an alligator. If he set his head on something, he’d fight a circle saw before he’d yield to your opinions. You’d as well argue with a fence post as try to change the mind” of Daily “Doc” Dupre, Jr. I know…I’ve been on the losing end of the fence post too many times.

Although he was a fierce and tireless advocate….I still think the essence of him was in ‘le danseur‘, his screen name for himself. That’s where Daily just shone…you could see the love of his heritage, his native French language, the customs, the music…but most of all the dance. He was one of the most graceful Cajun dancers I’ve ever seen….sailing across the dance floor, light as air, guiding his partner skillfully through the other dancers in time to the music – but always with a look of pure bliss on his face.

Although he was an excellent dancer, his urge to share what was most important to him in all spheres of his life also could be seen in him swooping up a slightly reluctant partner who did not know the dances – and teaching them. He truly was, and aptly nicknamed himself ‘le danseur’.

It’s hard to lose someone you care about. He’s not here in animated conversations anymore, nor doing all the countless little personal things he did for others, and ’tis true, the world has lost a great advocate. But Daily isn’t gone. Every time I speak in my pitiful French, I’ll hear him correcting me. Every time I see someone reaching out a hand to another who needs help, I’ll see Daily’s hand reaching out. Every time I hear someone speaking out for the rights of others, or asking “Why not?”, I’ll know he’s there. But most of all, every time I hear French music – on the radio, in a hall, at a festival – I’m going to be seeing him in my mind’s eye gracefully dancing to the Mamou Two Step, one of his grandfather’s songs.

I’m going to feel his warm presence and know that he’s around. Daily didn’t let anything either diminish or defeat him. Despite the obstacles and the prognosticators of doom, he struggled to make his life happy, rewarding, amazing and fun. I know that’s what he would want us all to do as well. In fact, one of his favorite expressions was, “Laissez les bon temps roulez!”

L’Chaim, Doc…L’Chaim!

Last edited by katie on February 15, 2011, 5:48 pm

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3 responses to Pour mon bon ami, le danseur . . .

  1. Very uplifting, Missy Katie.

    Knowing a little as I do about how Life has bounced you around a bit, I think I’m doubly impressed at that "spirit" that shines through your writing.

    Keep ’em coming.

  2. Real soon, Moggy man…I’m going to introduce you to a girl named Emily Claire.  That’s where it all began, you see. Every story..every book has to have a beginning to the journey.  So…remember, you read it here, on Writer’s Harbor…LOL…

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