Someone I’ve known just shy of 20 years, Tricia McCauley, has died.
This is hard. You can do remembrances for people who inspired you from afar or mentors who were decades older than you. And although I have lost friends and peers around my age, this is different.
She went missing late in the afternoon of Christmas Day. Most of us found out through social media the following day, Monday, when she hadn’t checked in for a planned flight. In a sign of the times, a Facebook group was created to help coordinate finding Tricia. It swelled to over 3,400 members in just a few hours. Twitter and Reddit spread the word. Uber and Lyft drivers were recruited in the search. It’s a small comfort that these efforts appear to have helped locate Tricia’s car and the suspect driving it.
Early Tuesday morning, December 27th, the DC police held a press conference which confirmed that Tricia’s body had been found in her car. She was, indeed, dead. Later that day, the suspect was formally charged. The details that came out were horrid. She had not simply died. She had been brutally murdered.
It’s sad to know someone who’s vital and full of life has died through accident or illness. It’s another level of sorrow to know someone with that kind of light has been willfully extinguished. I can but barely imagine the grief her family and closest friends felt and will continue to feel for some time.
I think of the person I first met one morning in Adams Morgan –a talented, energetic, elfin figure in combat boots– to the yogi, herbalist, and accomplished actress so many people came to know by the time of her death. Not only did she grow as a person, she wasn’t afraid to grow or to inspire others to do the same. When I entered the 30s a few years after her, she let me know, with an almost conspiratorial glee, that one’s 30s were the best decade yet. And everything I heard from friends and colleagues over the past week or so has confirmed my impression that she had decided to make her 40s even more extraordinary.
In fact, amongst all those personal reminisces were many posts where the person confessed they didn’t know Tricia personally, but knew about her from her work, her reputation, her very presence in the community. Whatever a life means, that she touched so many people she never met has to count for something.
The Washington Post did a nice piece which captured some of the impact Tricia had on the wider community. She was, or could be, a friend to everyone. She loved to create and inspired others to create and generally be present. And so although we hadn’t worked together for many years, I had hoped we would again, because I knew the energy she would bring to both the work and the rest of the cast.
But that possible future is gone now. And I mourn all the other futures all her other friends and family are now denied. The community lost a vital part of itself.
Tricia was not the first subject of an “RIP post” here and she won’t be the last. But isn’t the purpose of any of these remembrances not simply to mark what we have lost, but what we have gained?
If you haven’t gleaned already, Tricia believed in the best kind of magic: the kind that makes people grow. And for many of us, we don’t want this senseless act to be the last word. Her longtime friend and fellow Washington Stage Guild member, Bill Largess, has some excellent words on what can be done now.
Friends have also started a fundraiser to provide theater professionals health insurance — something that freelancers like Tricia often needed to worry about. It has happily blown past its original goal of $25,000.
So everywhere around the region, people are working to find meaning, to create meaning, to create.
But it’s hard to stay in the moment and look to the future. In fact, I think that balance was something Tricia had found — and kept on trying to encourage all of us to find as well. I try and think of something several NTI teachers mentioned to me while I trained there — and perhaps they mentioned it to Tricia in her time there as well. It’s one thing I tell all the actors who attend Stonehenge Auditions right before they go on to perform their monologues.
Don’t forget to breathe.