Friday, March 29, 2024


When I entered the Exhibition Halls at the Seattle Convention center Friday afternoon, it felt like time travel into the past. I was the guest of United States Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT) at its huge annual conference—held in Seattle for the first time in thirty years. My late husband, Jay, had been active in the Institute, and every several years I accompanied him to its annual conference held in various cities throughout the country. I always loved it. 

While Jay taught workshops, participated in panels, and attended meetings throughout the four-day event, I had fun on my own: socializing with spouses of his colleagues, strolling through exhibition space to watch demos of unbelievably high-tech equipment, and collecting swag—lanyards, pens, flashlights, and candy. When I wasn’t at the conference site, I visited museums and sights of the host city, and always enjoyed a wonderful evening social life because Jay had so many friends in the industry.

I was invited to this year’s conference to help celebrate the long-awaited release of the fourth revision of his Stage Rigging Handbook with its new revising author, Shane Kelly. After the book event and lots of hugs and handshakes, one of Jay’s long-ago colleagues accompanied me into the vast exhibition space. After several stops at exhibits to say hello to a few people I still know in the industry, I realized how out of place I felt. In the half-hour it took me to walk home, I became increasingly upset. At past conferences I had happily basked in his shadow, but I’ve been a widow almost ten years and have worked hard to reinvent myself as a stand-alone. I have no place there now.

I woke up Saturday morning thinking about the Conference with a strong urge to return to it, but wasn’t sure why. My guest pass from Friday allowed me admittance a second day, but weeks earlier I had committed to a choral concert Saturday afternoon. The concert would feature a world premiere of a new work by a local composer with whom I’m acquainted. He had made a point of inviting me. I contemplated breaking my commitment, but knew I’d feel bad if I did so. On auto-pilot, I plodded through my morning, including participating in chair yoga at my community. Melancholy, weepy thoughts kept floating through my head as I went through the yoga moves. When I got back to my apartment just before 11:00, I decided to write about my feelings to understand why the emotional turmoil. As I began typing, suddenly I realized what I had to do.

At 11:40 I stepped out of the Lyft car and into Seattle Convention Center. I set my phone’s alarm for forty-five minutes, so I would have time to get back to my apartment with ten minutes’ transition before departing for the concert. Traveling up three escalators to the first Exhibit Hall, I said aloud: Jay Glerum. Jay O. Glerum. You are here, Jay. As I walked from exhibit to exhibit, pausing, watching, contemplating, I continually repeated: I feel your presence, Jay. You are here Jay, yes!

I walked by the booth of a company Jay had been partial to and paused to look at its displays. I couldn’t help thinking about years ago when some of his favorite pals would have been there. Glancing at the huge and crowded swag table, I did a doubletake. Friendship bracelets! Inspired, I looked at my watch. Could I make a bracelet in ten minutes? 

A young woman approached. “Can I help you find beads?”

“Yes, please. Uh . . . J - A - Y,” I just need three.”

“You’ll need more than three beads to fill a bracelet . . . or else, settle for a keychain,” she said, laughing.

 “OK, then let’s also find G - L - E - R - U - M

 “Well . . . E is getting hard to find, but there’s gotta be at least one here—uh, yup, got one!”  She began to lay out the letters and add enough surrounding beads to make it bracelet size. “Oh, uh . . . wait a minute, I know that name! He’s famous. There needs to be an  O, doesn’t there? It’s Jay O. Glerum, right?”

It was the perfect closure for me. Jay continues to be revered for his lifechanging contribution to stage rigging safety. That a twenty-something working at a swag table recognized his name was the perfect gift. I will not be back, Jay, but YOU are here forever.

I will always remember that moment. Returning to my apartment with ten minutes to spare, I departed for the concert with a lighter heart and wearing a brand-new bracelet. 

1 comment:

Tina Wood said...

We're so glad you came by the J.R. Clancy booth, Sara! It was a pleasure to meet you. Would you mind if we shared this sweet story on our social media channels? Feel free to email me at and let me know. Have a great week!