Finding Her Passion from Grief

You’ve heard of “Dancing with the Stars.” This is Gloria’s story of dancing to heal her broken heart. Gloria Maxwell grew up in Cuba. She came to New York City as a refugee in 1961, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1966.

Gloria met her husband, Tom, when he was working construction near the bank where she worked. Seeing each other from the 12th floor, Tom used hand gestures to try to get Gloria’s phone number.

When they met in person, Gloria told Tom her English wasn’t good but the Irish man persisted. They were married Feb. 11, 1971, three months after meeting. Over the decades, Tom’s job took them to eight different states.

“We were always together,” Gloria said. “We got along well. We weren’t perfect, but we had a good marriage. I have no complaints.” Gloria was skeptical when Tom informed her he wanted to retire to Washington State. “I told him, ‘Are you crazy? It’s too cold for me’.”

After two years in Bellingham, they moved to the New Haven Senior Living community in North Seattle. Life was good, as they did volunteer work and struck up a friendship with the leaders of United Indians of All Tribes Foundation.

Two years ago, Tom’s health suddenly declined as he had a stroke. Their friends at All Tribes helped them through emergencies by providing rides to medical appointments. Tom died at home as he wished in March at the age of 86.

An upbeat person by nature, Gloria went into a funk. She rarely left home, avoided friends and had trouble sleeping. Gloria’s doctor said her grief was normal and offered advice: get out and do something you like.

Gloria knew she wanted to dance. She hadn’t danced for 50 years as Tom was a kind husband, but he wasn’t a dancer. On June 10, Gloria walked into Arthur Murray Dance studio for a ballroom dancing lesson.

“The first day was really weird. I felt lost,” Gloria said. Her sorrow vanished after her second lesson. “I have to give credit to Benny,” Gloria said of her dance instructor. “He gave me hope. He told me I’m a good follower.” Benny Mamani says Gloria has a natural box step. He is teaching her the rumba, tango, waltz, salsa, cha cha and some samba. She beams when talking about dancing. She feels stronger, leaner and happier.

“The only thing I want to do is to be here,” Gloria said of the studio. “All the people here are really nice. I thought I was a good dancer, but no, I am learning new things here.”

Gloria wants others to learn from her experience. “I like my own company now,” Gloria said. “I’m a lot less lonely.”

woman with her grandson