To Truly Dance

Dear Mom,
You died on Saturday, April 1, 2017. It was a surprise. I was skiing in Whistler, British Columbia, as likely of a place as I was to be as anywhere.  I’m grateful there weren’t many things I still needed to say to you. In the time since, I’ve told our story so many times: after dad died- I grew up close to you, close to the church. We grew apart, bitterly on my behalf, when I left the church and moved west.  I found my own truth and we pieced it back together slowly, like the beautiful blankets you made for Soren and I. The last few years of your life held some of our most honest and loving conversations. The most recent lesson: that feeling the same faith is less important than feeling each others humanity.

A few more favorites:

The air smelled thick of cut grass and the quiet, high-ceilinged church- I was 9, and stood up for the first time to give a testimony in Wednesday night church. I was just back from summer church camp full of newfound confidence. The cicadas chirped outside in the sticky midwestern summer. I shared a short truth about overcoming my fears at summer camp, you beamed. My faith is different now, but no less strong- you made faith cool.

I was 13 when you were finally able to tell me about my half-brother in Australia- he was half a world away, wondering who I was. I was so mad at you- his existence seemed to refute the moralist foundation you raised me with. Ultimately, welcoming him openly into our family inspired us all to a greater sense of compassion and honesty. I can only hope to learn so much from my own indignities.

At 17 you let me drive your new car and two friends 1500 miles to spend two weeks on our own in the Wind River mountains. When we got out, you flew to Jackson to shuttle us back to the car, feed us, and send us off on the drive home. You experienced the mountains differently than I do, but loved them no less. You refused to let the fears of the world darken the light of your experience, or mine. It’s a lesson we need badly these days.

We were eating at Lulu’s Noodles during the spring of my freshman year at Northwestern. I was terrified, because I had met you for lunch to tell you I was dropping out of music school. To my surprise, you took it in stride and cheered for me to enjoy a more relaxed version of college. That’s when I learned your dreams for me were nothing less than exactly my own.

I skipped my graduation from Northwestern to go on a NOLS course in Alaska. Instead, you sent 5 dozen cookies up to our team because my college team had won our senior design competition. it seemed out of place at the time, but I realize now it was the sweetest way that you could say you were proud of me. You always knew how to celebrate the important things.

Last Christmas we went out for deep dish, the whole family of us. Over the years I had always ducked the opportunity to pick up the check at a family dinner but in 2016 I was glad not to skip the chance. You always lived with the assumption of having enough to do the right thing- whether you had a lot or not. There was always enough.

And that is the point- we had less time than we all hoped, but it was enough. I’m still learning how much you cared for us, how great of a mom you were. I think you’re proud of me- I hope you know how proud we are of you.

“Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”   (Kahlil Gibran)

Climb on, mom.

You can enjoy some of my mom’s ideas through her lecturing and writing work for the Church of Christ, Scientist- her most recent piece is particularly excellent. Our family is deeply grateful for your compassion, however there will be no service. You can honor Lois most meaningfully through a donation to her church or to Mountain Home Montana

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7 thoughts on “To Truly Dance

  1. Perry Fisher

    Heartfelt, eloquent, and poetic. Thank you, Skander. Her unselfed love and spiritual perception continue to inspire.

    Reply
  2. Sarah Ann Collier

    Thank you so much for those heart felt words. I loved her too and will miss her. Will always be glad I could count her as a dear friend.

    Reply
  3. riccochrane

    Thank you, Skander — this is beautiful and inspiring. You honor your Mom and yourself by the way you inspire your friends and co-workers.

    Reply
  4. Shirley Paulson

    I am convinced if there’s anything Lois would want to know, it would be that you recognized and understood the depth of her love for you. And that’s just what you have so eloquently conveyed here. I’m happy for her, that she can have this permanent peace and joy. If she could love you during those moments, then you know how she loves you now and forever and is satisfied.

    Mary Baker Eddy wrote of her knowledge of mother love: ” A mother’s love touches the heart of God…” and you are singing, climbing, and dancing with her in the most beautiful way.

    Thank you for pondering, writing, and sharing this.

    Reply
  5. Susan Anderson

    Dear Skander, Thank you for your eloquence and honesty and humility. Please stay in touch.
    We love you and are so grateful to have been part of Lois and Donald’s and Michael’s and Soren’s lives.

    Reply
  6. John Anderson

    Skander it was the renewing of a long friendship with your visit to our home recently. Sue and I have known you your whole life. We have known Lois since the mid-70’s. She presented us with much joy in that span. My thoughts are still with her and all she shared. I miss her voice on the phone and her presence to visit,and as you and Gibran have shared I am learning to “truly dance”. I send you much love and all who surround you.

    Reply

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