Transcending Grief: Son's memory fuels mother’s passion for aerial fitness
After losing her son to a genetic disease four years ago, Shelly Ogden developed an interest in a hobby that helps her feel closer to him.
| 5:00 p.m. July 19, 2017
WINTER GARDEN – Kneeling on the floor, she tenderly kisses an old stuffed teddy bear and gently places it on the ground beside her.
She slowly looks upward, reaching for the red silk cloth and pulls herself up off the floor, climbing higher and higher until she’s suspended in mid-air with only her strength keeping her aloft.
With her muscles burning and a last look down at the teddy bear that once belonged to a 4-year-old boy named Kaleb, Shelly Ogden strikes an elegant pose.
To any onlooker, she is a strong and graceful aerial performer focused solely on the choreography of her aerial silks routine. But as she expertly manipulates the cloth around her body and flies through the air, Ogden’s thoughts are all of her son.
“I know you’re not really flying, but you feel like you are because you’re high up in the air and you perform tricks, and rolls and falls and you just feel a little bit closer to heaven,” Ogden said. “It makes me feel like he’s here — like I can reach him. I know I can’t but, you know, for a minute it makes me feel that way.”
The last four years have been emotionally challenging for Winter Garden resident Ogden and her husband, David Ogden, Windermere’s police chief.
The Ogden family lost their son, Kaleb, Oct. 3, 2012, to Sandhoff disease — a fatal genetic disorder characterized by a progressive deterioration of the central nervous system with symptoms identical to Tay-Sachs disease. At the time of his death, Kaleb was 4 years old and eight days.
But, it’s the struggle Kaleb faced during his four years of life that drives Ogden to challenge herself and endure the burn of her muscles as she holds every pose and conquers her fear of heights.
“At the end of his life, he couldn’t even move,” she said. “He lived a tough life, but he lived it bravely. So I figured, if he can do that, then I can suck it up for a minute or two. He’s kind of my inspiration.”
Ogden, who used to work as a detective for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, has been taking aerial classes intermittently for the past four years. The hobby developed after she spotted a dance studio during one of her frequent trips to the cemetery.
HONORING HIS MEMORY
“After he passed, I didn’t want to be in the house,” she said. “I went to the cemetery a lot, and on my way back is when I passed this little dance studio. And I thought, ‘You know, maybe I should start doing something.’ I thought I signed up for an aerial yoga class, but much to my surprise, it was an aerial silks class. It was the hardest thing I had ever done, but I really enjoyed it.”
As a soft-spoken introvert who shies away from the spotlight, it took years of practice and persuasion from her private aerial instructor, Lauriel Marques, to do a public performance. She finally participated in a show June 1.
Marques helped her choreograph a routine to a sentimental song by Danny Gokey, titled “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.”
With the idea of instilling meaning to her choreography, Ogden plans to have her next aerial routine performed to a song titled “Tears of an Angel” that highlights the strength and bravery of kids such as Kaleb.
“I could sit at home and be depressed all the time, and no one would fault me for it,” she said. “But that’s not the way to honor his memory.”