My mother was a dancer. One of my earliest and best memories is of twirling madly around the living room with Mom as “Shall We Dance?” from the soundtrack of The King and I blasted from the stereo. The music would end, we’d gasp for breath, and then Yul Brynner would say, “Come, we do it again.” And off we’d go on our wild polka, laughing and trying to avoid the piano and couches in our tiny ballroom.
When I say my mother was a dancer, I don’t mean she was trained in the art of ballet or tap. I mean it’s the kind of person she was. Dancing, you see, is about attitude. A dancer hears the music and can’t sit still; she must participate. A dancer doesn’t just appreciate flowers; she is awed by their beauty. A dancer embraces life and finds good in people and isn’t ashamed to be absolutely thrilled about trivial things.
It’s the kind of attitude the Apostle Paul must have had in mind when he penned his letter to the Phillipians:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (4:8).
Cynicism is rampant around us. Despair is commonplace. Even many of the children I meet seem to be jaded and to lack a sense of wonder. And everyone is so angry. But it’s hard to be angry when you’re dancing.
The dancing ended for Mom.
Not long after her illness was becoming apparent we went to a party together. A great little combo played some of the old big band music, the good stuff from the war years. We had fun, but her body wouldn’t cooperate with the beat in her head and she got frustrated.
She was slowly drawn into another world. But up until very near the end, even when she was hardly aware of my presence in the room, if I sang the old show tunes she would hum along. I like to think that, even then, deep in some part of her mind that hadn’t been ravaged by Alzheimer’s disease she was still dancing.
Life is short. No matter where you are, no matter what your circumstances, no matter what you’ve been told or what you’ve chosen to believe in the past, I want to tell you what my mother’s life told me:
If you look–really look–around you there is truth and nobility and righteousness and purity and loveliness. There is excellence in God’s world and there are things to be admired and praised.
If you listen–really listen–you will hear music playing. Dance while you can.