I admit I am a Sci-fi/ Fantasy book geek. I used to read the genre incessantly, so much so that my brother once said I was so creative because I spent so much time outside of reality, inhabiting the worlds of Donadlson, Von Vogt, Phillip K. Dick, Asimov and Orson Scott Card. As a result, I often think in metaphors to my biblio heros, sometimes feeling like Thomas Covenant, observing the effects of the Gripping Hand, or wanting to create R. Daneel Olivaw. So imagine my surprise when I finally confided to my friend Regina Holliday that there was a character from sci-fi she reminded me of and she replied that the very same character was also her inspiration. Here was Life imitating Art, and not just any any art, geek literary Art!
For those who do not know, Regina Holliday is famous for her emotive telling of the stories of people who have suffered and died, often prematurely, in our broken healthcare system. She speaks for the fallen, or as Orson Scott Card would put it, she is a Speaker for the Dead. While this seems morbid, or perhaps like simply a eulogy, in fact it is something quite different. Always somewhat cynical of the sentimental side of life, I recall not connecting with the idea of a Speaker for the Dead in the Ender’s Game Trilogy. The story goes that this child is tricked into destroying an alien race, the “Buggers”. He thinks he is playing a video game and he is the world’s best gamer, a genius, bred for his massive cleverness and quick intelligence. Once he learns the truth, that he has, in fact, destroyed an alien and intelligent race, he becomes their greatest historian and “Speaks” for them. In the book, his words start a movement whereby eulogies become celebrations of the life just past, epics that leaves the listeners changed.
So I dismissed this all as literary extravagance 15 years ago when I read it.
…and then, as I was at the first Walking Gallery listening to Regina tell her story to a rapt audience. The story of her love, of her husband, of his death. The story of Fred Holliday. And I thought, “so this is what is is to be a Speaker for the Dead.” But I couldn’t tell her I thought this. It had the word “Dead” in it and frankly, asking her scared me that day. Even a few weeks later when we talked for an hour about a “Speaker’s Bureau” I didn’t bring it up, thinking it too esoteric a reference and mean a word.
And finally yesternay morning at about 2 AM I finally pinged her in 140 character’s or less that she reminded me of a character I admired, one that spoke eloquently and passionately about people that had been lost. And she knew what I was talking about. I I was amazed that here she had interperted the concept Card had created and brought it out and made it real and enthralled thousands of people with her Speaking. Her Speaking for the Dead. And I was moved, yet again, by the vision and genius of my friend Regina Holliday. The Artist. The Wife. The Mother. And the first, real life, Speaker for the Dead.
It is a great gift you have given us Regina. Thank you. May you inspire millions to think and Speak the same way!