Joanna Campbell Slan has moved, searching new blog...

Friday, May 11, 2012

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.

9 comments:

Victoria's Place said...

Joanne, such a touching article. I have to agree. I am the same way, I don't feel my parents are at the grave site either, I always remember them by the things they did and said.
I hope you have a fantastic week!

JSwansiger@comcast.net said...

What a beautiful remembrance. I can "see" your mother dancing now and imagine the joy you feel as you dance to honor her.

Amy said...

Having danced all the time I was growing up (from 2nd grade through 12th) your word picture of your mom allowed me to see her. She must have been a very special woman!

My mother sewed. She made all our dance costumes -- from pin-fitting the shapes to finished product. She made most of our clothes and taught me to sew and love hand-work. She would be proud of my quilting, my bead work, and my tangling.

When I see you in my mind now, I will see you dancing!

Suzy said...

I was all choked up reading your heartfelt words. My darling mother is in her late eighties and has various health issues, every day I can speak to her on the phone I thank God. I can only imagine (from losing Dad 15 years ago) how the loss of your mother must feel. I cannot bear to imagine it without getting tearful. My dad didn't want a grave in a graveyard, he asked for his ashes to be scattered where he loved to fish...and that is how I think of him..gone fishing.

We so missed a grave to visit, that was his plan..he didn't want people, especially Mum, mourning his death in a specific place. Surely we must treasure and remember the life he led, not the place his ashes lay?

I can imagine the joy and celebration you have in your heart and the look in your eyes as you 'see' her dancing in your minds eye. x

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

I think that each of us must deal with our losses as best we can. Whether it's to visit a grave, or to create a special memorial site, or through an activity. The point is...as long as we are loved and we love, we are immortal.

Anonymous said...

Everyone deals with the death of their loved ones differently, having only lost my mother less then a year ago it is still pretty fresh for me. The one thing that does slightly annoy me though is at Christmas and my mothers birthday my father and my brothers keep asking me it I went out to see her at the cremetorium, my respose to this is I'am not going out there to see her she is longer here but shes with me everytime I think of her and where ever she is she know I love and miss her without having to see and insciption on a wall I just find that depressing. Cherie

Anonymous said...

Dear Joanna---My Mother lives on in my daughter. They were born a day apart though many years between. Dinah, my daughter looks like my Mother though their coloration is different--D is blonde with grey eyes and fair skin..Mother had olive skin, green eyes and black hair. But the 'scary' part is when I do something and that "Mother"-look flashes in D's eyes or D will say something that sounds so like Mother...and I think she's not dead she still knows.....it's not un-loving just eerie that they are so alike.
What was your mom's name...I used to follow NYCBallet very closely and had a couple of members as teachers. Karen Greenfield

Anonymous said...

I too have lost both my mother and father to death. I do visit their gravesite and savor the memories I have of them together. I am more like your sisters - I honor their memory by putting flowers at the site. I know that my mother is smiling in heaven, because I put the red flowers that she loved. I find the cemetery to be a peaceful place where I can be with my parents again. Please respect our differences.

Judy Harper said...

Nice! Did you tell your sisters with this post or verbally?