i still remember giving birth to Sloanie, and despite her dainty cry that filled the room in those first seconds after delivery, the first words out of my anxious mouth were, “Is she alive?”
We named her Evelyn - meaning LIFE - her full name means, “warrior for life and truth”, and it has proven over these past nearly 18 years to be a prophetic name. Honestly, there have been times that i regretted giving her a name that meant warrior - wondering if it was this moniker hanging on to her like a secret, invisible marking that made it seem like she’s had to fight so hard for everything... i’ve watched her fight for her own character, for relationships, for grades, for growth, for peace in her mind, for answers... and as she grew into adolescence with an awareness of her own soul and worth, i’ve watched her becoming the most eloquent warrior that i know, for both life and truth. I AM KNOWN is her battle cry - and with it, she brings truth to light, and shines hope into darkness.
When i started homeschooling, i remember joining an online support group of Alberta Homeschooling Moms. Other, more experienced moms would say to us newbies, “Always remember, homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint...” At mile 1, i was full of purpose... i had two years of homeschooling under my belt as Sloanie started grade one. She had been an eager reader and by the time we started schooling, she was already devouring books - something that hasn't changed over all these years. We grew to be a team as we ran this marathon together. i lacked the experience and the talent that some other homeschool moms seemed to have, but i vowed to myself that i would make up for what i lacked by doing the things i was good at. i took stock of my abilities and found that i was good at two things: relationships and love. And so we built relationship. Much of our curriculum was built on conversation, discussion and debate. We learned about math and social studies, english and science... but we learned too, about character, ethics, compassion and kindness.
Homeschooling Sloan has been my joy. We found our rhythm, and we put miles behind us… year by year, till i became the one nodding sagely to anxious younger moms, “Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint… you’ve got this… long, even strides, just breathe…”
i got a chance to watch pieces of her personality unfurl as she grew, and i found myself - like all mothers do - falling in love with all the bits that made her different, unique… *my* softie. If you notice on the banner we made over there, we put some quotes from some of her favourite books. Sloanie has always been a fan of the sidekick. Caspian is good, Reepicheep is better. Frodo is fine, but it’s Samwise who she roots for. For her entire life, Sloanie has played the faithful, loyal sidekick.
One day, when the girls were maybe 4 & 6, they had a little friend over to play. The friend was right between them age-wise and it seemed a sweet little mix, but from the kitchen i heard whisperings that sounded upset and i started paying attention. Cairo was standing shyly off to the side and Sloanie was in a furious whispered discussion with our guest... As i listened, i gathered the gist of what was happening. The guest was trying to get Sloan to come play a game with her, but was hoping to leave Cairo out... Sloan - who has worn the nickname ‘softie’ since birth was having none of it. Her little voice raised and her tiny foot landed solidly on the ground as she resolutely kept eye contact, “i SAID... not without Cai.”
Steadfastness, loyalty, faithfulness...
Sloanie, you are the most worthy of sidekicks.
Our feet got calloused as we ran. We got blood blisters, nausea, we lost toenails, it was a mess… and some days we wondered if we could continue, but we did. We ran…
These past 2 years as Cairo moved on to her college education, and now with Peyton moving into public high school, Sloanie dutifully took on the biggest sister mantle. i think she missed her sisters on either side of her. i did too. She wore her big sister mantle differently than Cairo did... Where Cai’s strengths seemed to lie in organizing activities for our little ragamuffin troop, Sloan’s seemed to lie in burning the energy of a house full of small boys who were always aching for someone to chase them, to wrestle them... to tickle them and make eye contact while they told her what, exactly, was on their minds. They needed touch and her arms seemed perpetually open... and perpetually welcoming little blonde brothers.
She wrote. She spoke carefully and with caution, but when she wrote, she wrote with abandon and a fierce honesty that made her writing great. Sloanie, i hope you never stop writing. It is a gift to both you and to the world. Share it.
We are coming into the last couple yards of our marathon, Sloanie. The crowd is going crazy. We see the finish line. Our muscles are aching, but we did it.
Warrior, side kick, big sister... we’re there...
i want to finish with one more story.
Many of you know that Sloanie and i went to the twenty one pilots concert in April. i had never been to a concert like that - with a crazy roaring crowd and bodies pressed so tight my cheek could rest on the back of the person in front of me. Sloanie tried to protect me, often lifting me effortlessly so i could see above the crowd, as we half shouted, half sang till we were hoarse, the lyrics that had saved us both over the course of the past couple of years. We cried as we recognized our Saviour hidden in lyrics that invited the broken and spoke healing to the hurting. We danced and jumped and pushed until we were bathed in sweat and tears - both our own, and everyone elses... Somewhere nearing the end of the concert, she leaned to me... me... her 39 year old mother... and said, “Mom, i’ll lift you up. You crowd surf, you can do it, you’re little... i’ll lift you up!”
And even now, it makes me laugh... “I’ll lift you up... i’ll lift you up... i’ll lift you up...”
Because it seems to me that lifting me up is all she has ever done.
So, today i lift you up, my softie, i’m so proud of you.
i wanna leave you with a Franciscan Benediction that so fits with the warrior name we gave you when you were born:
May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.