Site icon Joanna Campbell Slan

Remembering My Mother

My sisters often send me photos of my mother’s grave after they add new flowers.

I appreciate the fact that my sisters are tending Mom’s grave, but I hate those pictures, and I haven’t found a way to tell Jane and Margaret my feelings until now.

See, I don’t want to remember my mother by visiting her grave. Yes, we picked a lovely spot in Port Salerno with a view of the water. Yes, it’s an Episcopal church’s graveyard, which would have pleased her. True, my sisters did a wonderful job of designing Mom’s stone, including the ascending dove image, one just like the one she always wore on a silver chain.

But that’s not where my mother is. That piece of ground has little–or nothing!–to do with Mom, and certainly it’s not how I choose to remember her.

When I want to remember my mother, I dance.

My mother was a ballerina who danced with the New York City Ballet, and the Atlanta Civic Ballet. She taught ballet all the years we lived in Vincennes, Indiana. My earliest memory is of her lifting up and over the broken glass in the door to her studio in Jacksonville, Florida. She’d locked herself out and to gain entrance she’d broken the back window. I guess she must have been desperate to get in because she was expecting to teach a class. That’s all I can figure, given the rearview window distortion of memory.

So when I think of Mom, I don’t think of a static plot of grass. I think of her physical grace. I think of how triumphant she looked after completing a series of demanding fouette turns and how she often spoke choreography out loud when listening to music. I see the beautiful lines of her arms, the quicksilver way she translated music into rhythm, and the longing she carried with her, a longing that found its expression in dance.

When I miss my mother, I don’t visit the graveyard. Instead, I dance. As I turn and twirl and leap, I “talk” to Mom. “See? You aren’t dead. You live in me!” I tell her this to reassure her; she was very frightened of dying.

I remind her how she lives on. Because that’s the essence of parenthood, that knowledge that we will go on, that we will live on in some small part because we were brave enough to have a child. And so she does. She lives in me, and she is most alive, and she is eternal when I am dancing.

This Mother’s Day, I challenge you to think of how your mother lives on. And instead of visiting a graveyard, I hope you choose to honor your mother in some activity that proves her love is eternal.

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