A VanCoug visits the Pridelands

It was in the middle of the short summer session that I heard on the radio that the world’s number one musical, “The Lion King,” was coming to the Keller Auditorium in August. The tickets were expensive, and at first I was hesitant on buying them for my family, until I remembered my grandmother, Val.

An avid promoter of family functions, Val frequently splurged on expensive theater and event tickets, and “The Lion King” was no exception. One of her favorite musicals, second only to “Les Misérables,” my grandmother treated myself and my family to see “The Lion King” in when it opened in 1998 in Los Angeles.

Sadly, I lost my grandmother suddenly in 2012, sending a tremendous shock through our family at the loss of our matriarch. The family has not been the same since her passing. In the four years since our loss, I have naturally mourned, but I always try to think of ways to incorporate her back into our lives. I do not want my children to forget her presence, or her commitment and contributions to the family. I knew that purchasing “The Lion King” tickets was what my grandmother would do for us if she were still physically present, so I made the reservations to see the show.

To honor my grandmother, one of the traditions I have kept throughout the years is to wear a piece of jewelry that she gave me. It is in this way that I feel her presence the most, and I am able give her a front row seat to an event I know she would have wanted to attend. On the night of Aug. 16, I put on earrings my grandmother gave me as a high school graduation gift, and shuffled my family into the car to see “The Lion King.”

The theater was, of course, packed with patrons. People were bumping and shifting to get refreshments and find their seats, but as the lights dimmed, the audience became one. As the incredible cast of voice talents began the opening number “The Circle of Life,” and the dancers swirled on stage and through the isles wearing elaborate costumes, I could feel the smile spread on my face and the tears begin to well up within me.

The musical brought out a range of emotions. Hilariously funny scenes, such as when Timon and Pumbaa dance to distract the hyenas, or young Simba and Nala thwart the over-protective Zazu’s attempts to keep them reigned in, brought joy to the audience.

At other times, scenes like Mufasa’s death and Simba’s sadness and restlessness in “Endless Night” filled viewers with pain and sadness. Through all of these vignettes, I was able to provide my children with an incredible experience, just as my grandmother had provided for me all those years ago.

Simba  Photo courtesy of lionkingportland2016.com

Photo courtesy of lionkingportland2016.com

One of the main themes that runs through “The Lion King” is that, although Simba’s father Mufasa dies tragically, he is always within Simba’s person. Simba loses faith in himself, and becomes weary through loss.

Reminiscent of this was the depression and loss I felt the first year after losing my grandmother. I consequently felt one with Simba’s character. The clouds and darkness clear only after Simba understands that, through himself and his actions, his father still lives. The musical number “He Lives in You,” performed by Buyi Zama as Rafiki and Aaron Nelson as Simba, perfectly portrayed the emotions that swept over me during the play.

“The Lion King” gave me the understanding that although my grandmother Val is not with me physically, she is actually always with me, inside of me. At the close of “The Lion King,” I felt whole, revived and renewed. Whether it is during events like “The Lion King,” or my upcoming graduation next May, I learned that my grandmother lives in me. I need not be sad anymore thinking of her loss, for “The Lion King” and its powerful message of the circle of life has lifted the constraints I had placed within myself. Like Simba taking his rightful place on Pride Rock, I can go forward in life confidently, for now, I am free.

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  1. Awesome Remembering of Your Grandmother. I know she was there enjoying every minute it.

  2. My wonderful niece Dawn spoke so elegantly about my Mother, Val, and it brought tears to my eyes. I know she loved The Lion King and other plays and always thought of her family. She was a one of a kind person. I can only hope that she is with our circle of friends and family in the afterlife, and that she is proudly smiling down at what a wonderful grand-daughter Dawn turned out to be.

    Peace and Love to all who reads this,

    Clint Cearley