“You’re like a flower.
“Pretty and dances in the wind.”
The parting thought was among the heartfelt words written around the portrait of Nancy G. Lopez-Ruiz in the back of St. Joseph Catholic Church.
Dance was Nancy’s gift to her family and many friends.
And, like a flower in the wind, she was gone much too soon.
One week after the vibrant Bayshore High graduate’s tragic death, an air of disbelief permeated Friday morning’s funeral Mass as her pall-covered coffin lie before the altar.
Just 22, Nancy was realizing her dreams after moving to South Florida a few years ago.
She’d gotten engaged.
She’d had a part in Kenny Chesney’s 2009 video: “Went Out Last Night.”
She recently made the Miami Heat dance team.
Friends and classmates, some of them young mothers now, spoke of receiving Nancy’s texts and phone calls sharing her excitement.
Then one week later her life was snuffed out, struck by another motorist while Nancy rode her motorcycle in Fort Lauderdale.
The Rev. Paul McLaughlin articulated what was on the minds of 300 mourners, including Nancy’s Heat dancer teammates.
How painful, arbitrary and unfair, St. Joseph’s pastor said, consoling Nancy’s family.
It is part of life’s mystery — and life must never be taken for granted.
Nancy did not, living each day to its fullest.
Especially if it included dance.
She was 3 when she began to show such skill.
First came the Daughtrey Pride, an AAU Junior Olympic award-winning aerobics dance team she belonged to along with our “American Idol” icon, Syesha Mercado.
The Harllee Middle dance team was next, followed by the Bayshore High Honeybears. She made captain, too.
Nancy may have moved onto the bright lights of South Florida, but she was always one of Bradenton’s daughters and represented its nascent dance talent across our county.
Be they Bayshore Honeybears, Braden River Black Pearls, Lakewood Ranch Silver Stars, Manatee Sugar ‘Canes, Palmetto Dazzlers, Southeast Nolettes or middle school dancers, when they perform it is as if they are free of the earthly shackles that bind the rest of us mortals.
It’s like they can fly.
Beautiful inside as she was outside, Nancy embodied such transcendence.
Which is why so many grieved for her, the family and for themselves.
They’d lost something dear to them.
A flower in the wind.
Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a phone number for verification purposes.