October 5th, 2010

Memorata In Aeternum

I'm in a strange mood tonight - starting to write this without a title, or even more than the barest idea of what I intend to write, but compelled to write *something*. I attended a memorial tonight for Sandy Graham, the long-time Vampire (and later, Faerie) Queen of Knott's Halloween Haunt to whom I've referred a few times over the last several months. She succumbed to brain cancer a few weeks ago. The event was held in the Charles Schulz theater at the park in order to accommodate not just her family and fellow Knott's employees but anyone who wished to pay their respects. This year's trip down for Haunt happened to coincide with the memorial, so I borrowed a car and drove to Buena Park this evening.

I didn't know Sandy, not in any real sense. I didn't even know her full real name until earlier this year when I read a blog post announcing the resurgence of her cancer (which she'd already beaten back once some years ago). A few times each year I'd see her at Haunt in her maze role - I'd always make a grandly sweeping bow, to which she would regally smile. Several times I took pictures (of which, try as I might, I can only find one) and exchanged a few brief words. The exact same fleeting interaction, I'm sure, had by many thousands of other Haunt visitors over the years.

I love Haunt, and Sandy had been a small but long-familiar part of that. She was a fellow cancer patient. Those two slender connective threads are hardly enough to explain why I was sitting in that theater, or why most the way home in the misty rain I had my iPhone looping Dead Can Dance's "The Host Of Seraphim" (a piece of the soundtrack from one of her earliest Vampire Queen incarnations), or why I stopped on the way home to pick up the rum I'm now sipping at from a commemorative Haunt shot glass as I write this.

The memorial was a fine tribute, and reason enough to wish I *had* properly known her. After closing Sunday night Knott's management had pulled from the Labyrinth maze the animated skeletal harpist and the swing in which Sandy had sat for the last few years - they were on the stage, along with a painting of her which will go back into the maze with the props. She'd clearly touched a lot of people, most of them much more deeply than I. I can only imagine how strange much of the proceedings (and attendees) may have appeared to family members who didn't know much about Haunt or her persona there. You don't often see slideshows/videos at memorial services prominently and repeatedly featuring the deceased in life smiling while coyly perched atop coffins, surrounded by other grinning ghouls.

(Resuming, after a pause to refill the shot glass.) Nope. That's all a little of what I'm *thinking*, but completely fails to express how I *feel*, or *why*. More of the apprehension about the future course of my own cancer treatment that started (returned?) after I recently read Lance Armstrong's bio? Simple nostalgia for Haunts and Halloweens long past (with a dusting of envy for the vividly demonstrated comraderie of the Haunt family - as much as I love the event, I've always been a guest, not a participant)? Hope that I'll be remembered as fondly and widely as Sandy after I go (why and whenever that may be)?

Seems the longer I write, the more questions and uncertainty arise. By the unanimous accounts of those who genuinely *knew* her, Sandy Graham was a wonderful woman and a great friend. To me she was a familiar face at an event that has always filled me with joy. That's enough. It has to be. One last toast to the Vampire Queen, who in the end really has achieved the only sort of immortality any of us can.

Good night, sweet Queen.

(Lots of good things this weekend too; will recap the weekend in general and Haunt especially later and probably elsewhere. Right now, I think I'm going to tap the rum just one more time, and look at the nighttime lightscape of the Inland Empire for a while. On the plane back to Seattle tomorrow.)