Denton lost a great lady last week. Charlye Heggins was a doer. She had great ideas, and she invested her life in doing something with them. She made an impact on the life of our city and every person who knew her. For us here at the Convention & Visitors Bureau, she served on our Advisory Board for four years and gave her thought and time toward our every effort. She invested 100% in what she believed. She dreamed, worked, and connected people. She lived well and true. Her absence will be a forever hole in Denton’s heart, but her legacy will never end, because she left an indelible mark on so many people and in so many places.
Yesterday, Charlye was laid to rest, and in the celebration of her life yesterday afternoon, Dentoning took on a whole other layer of meaning for me and I am confident for the 400 or so other folks who participated in the quite un-funeral-like event to pay our respects.
One of the things I treasure most about Denton is our diversity. And not just that we have diversity, either. It’s how we embrace it. Even gone from this earth, Charlye roused our individual and communal Original, Independent spirits and the manifestation of it all coming together in one place honoring one life was amazing. Charlye was not a respecter of difference; she brought people together. The evidence was there yesterday as black, white, Hispanic, Asian from every walk of life celebrated her in our own ways – together. Churched and unchurched, family and not, leaders and laypersons, young and old – there we were for one purpose. It’s almost hard to put into words. You know those stories that end with “I guess you had to be there?” Maybe this is one of them. But I hope you can at least imagine it and perhaps even experience a little of it vicariously through this blog, because it really was that important.
The African American community has the beautiful gift of visible, tangible passion. I’m not saying others don’t; I’m just saying that when celebrating a life well lived, there are no holds barred. The music was Dentoning at its finest. It was unbridled, coming from deep inside rattling the deep inside of everyone there. Incredibly talented musicians followed singers’ organic heart bursts like a practiced concert. Genius superstars the likes of Whitney Houston and Jennifer Hudson came to mind. They would have been impressed with these Dentonites easily in their league. As an authentic Dentoning experience always does, their music engulfed, demanding a response that was surprising in its intensity, inclusive, impossible to ignore. Some people added their own voices, raw and uninhibited. Many clapped, tapped, some even danced. There were shouts of joy, groans of sorrow, tears of many kinds. Regardless of the outward response, no person could be in that place and feel nothing. As Charlye lived, so she moved on without a life in that room left untouched.
For those who experienced yesterday’s event alongside me, we connected in a different place. Whether we ever actually talk about it out loud is irrelevant. It happened. We were there, and we were together, and we were marked by the experience itself, a Dentoning peak and most appropriate finish to our common bond of association to Charlye.
I am certain Charlye was smiling.