A Tribute to Amy Louise Sebelius

Amy Lou

Amy Lou

There is no euphemism suitable for the end of Amy Louise Sebelius’ life. Early in the morning on November 24th, our Amy Lou died. While filled with love, her death was the only somber part of her life. The rest was technicolor.

Amy Louise Sebelius, Amy Lou, was a goddamned firefly wrapped in a rainbow riding a unicorn while reciting Henry the 4th. She was moonbeams and fireworks screaming across a perfectly blue-black star studded sky. And standing next to her, on-stage and off, I always felt like I could fly.

At its very best, improv is about vulnerability. We stand up in front of people and invite them to watch us swan dive into a trust fall again and again and again and again. And because of the incredible faith in each other it takes to do that in tandem, the people we stand up on that stage with often become closer than the closest of friends. Amy Louise Sebelius was that for so many of us, and for me.

I met her at the inaugural Camp Improv Utopia Yosemite. But before I met her, I heard her voice. Raspy and yet lilting, laughing and yet poignant. Her energy was like a red carpet unrolled into Oz. “Heyyyy, come in!” she said excitedly. “Oh my god, do you believe in ghosts? You have to hear this story.” I was immediately wrapped up and carried away by her energy.

We spent that weekend in Yosemite learning a new improv form, which itself is a gift. But the greatest gift for me, was that I got to learn about her. I watched her initiate with rapturous excitement. When I perform, I often feel uncomfortable with situations or initiations that skew toward the absurd. And then there’s Amy Lou. She was so beautifully comfortable with the fanciful. She would initiate something that on face value seemed so unattainably absurd, but then would instantaneously become grounded and filled with delight. I learned from her joy. I gravitated to her passion. I basked in her shine.

I remember a day, toward the end of her life, where I was sitting at the foot of her hospital bed working on my laptop as she slept. It was late in the afternoon. I heard that raspy voice say, “Would you look at how beautiful this is. We are so lucky.” I looked at her and saw a blissful smile across her face. I followed the light in her eyes to the window where the sky was filled with the most beautiful early sunset. We sat there for a moment taking it in. The moment was ended by her hedgehog finger puppet telling me that he wanted some chocolate. The perfect mixture of tenderness and hilarity, that was Amy Lou. Beauty and bits, always and forever.

To say that I will miss her doesn’t feel like it even comes close to describing the grief left in her absence. I just know that I want to be the kind of performer that lifts others up and carries them along on a skyrocket of delight. And I know that I want to live a life filled with the love and joy and technicolor that she carried and flung into the atmosphere everywhere Amy Lou went.

If you want to honor her there are lots of tangible things you could do. You could put on some red horn-rimmed glasses, you could do a Harold, you could eat pizza, you could pet your favorite kitty. But the best way to honor her is simply to stop now and then, take a deep breath and honor the beauty in front of you, because that’s what she did every day of her life. And after you take that deep breath and acknowledge the moment, take off your shoe, make a puppet out of your sock, and do some bits for the person standing next to you. And laugh. Beyond it all, laugh. She’ll hear you and if you listen close enough, you will be able to hear that inimitable raspy voice laugh back and say, “Oh my god! I love you!”

How lucky I was, we all were, to love and be loved by our Amy Lou.



Gretchen Wirges
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