Winging Up and Up

On March 9th, my mother Dorothy (Dodie) Hogstad passed away at the age of 59. Less than six weeks had elapsed from her cancer diagnosis to her death. Her dad had died a little over seven months previous.

My mother and I, August 1995

My mother and me, late August 1995

We are overwhelmed and humbled by the fundraiser my friends and readers set up to help the family with the many expenses associated with her passage, and I simply do not know what to say besides: thank you.

Thank you.

After Stephen Colbert’s beloved mom Lorna Colbert passed away, he did a segment on The Report in tribute to her. So much of what he said applies to my own relationship with my mother. You can watch the whole thing here, but here are some excerpts:

I’ve been away from the Report for a week because one week ago today my mother, Lorna Tuck Colbert, died. And I want to thank everybody who offered their thoughts and prayers. Now if you watch this show, and you like this show, that’s because of everybody who works here, and I’m lucky to be one of them. But when you watch the show, if you also like me, that’s because of my mom.

She made a very loving home for us… Hugs never needed a reason in her house. Singing and dancing were encouraged, except at the dinner table…

She was fun.

She knew more than her share of tragedy… But her love for her family and her faith in God somehow gave her the strength not only to go on, but to love life without bitterness, and to instill in all of us a gratitude for every day we had together…

We were the light of her life and she let us know it til the end.

And that’s it. Thank you for listening. Now we can get to the truly important work of television broadcasting, which is what she would want me to do. When I was leaving her last week, I leaned over and I said, “Mom, I’m going back to New York to do the show.” And she said, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

So. [deep breath]

With that in mind, this is the Colbert Report.

And this is Song of the Lark.

So. Once I settle our affairs, and the time is right, and the finances work out, I will be moving from Eau Claire and starting a new life in Minnesota. Her rebirth into death will ultimately bring a rebirth to the blog, to my work, to my education, to my passion for great orchestral music. There is no more beautiful final gift she could have given.

Thankfully, her presence is enveloping. I dearly hope that her legacy of love and love of beauty and love of hilarious snark can somehow live on in me. And thankfully, music heals. I’ll be at Orchestra Hall a lot this spring, so I anticipate a lot of healing. I look forward to being the best I can possibly be, and to making you – and her – proud. Keep an eye on this space.

In lieu of a funeral I am in the early stages of planning a celebration of her life to take place sometime this year: a fabulous chamber music concert with Minnesota Orchestra musicians as guest artists. I will keep the community posted when I know more.

A few adapted lines of George Meredith’s poem The Lark Ascending:

For singing till her heaven fills, / Tis love of earth that she instils, / And ever winging up and up, / Our valley is her golden cup, / And she the wine which overflows / To lift us with her as she goes…

The sunset that appeared a few hours after Mom slipped away.

The sunset that appeared a few hours after Mom slipped away

With much gratitude – Emily



Filed under My Writing

8 responses to “Winging Up and Up

  1. GGSlade

    We are graced to have known your mother through you, Emily. Thank you for sharing her with the world.

  2. Sarah Schmalenberger

    I am much inspired by your tribute, not only in this post but throughout the journey you two have shared. Blessings to you

  3. walfredswanson

    My condolences on your loss. You were obviously very close to your mother and lucky to have her, just as she probably felt tremendously lucky to have you. Peace.

  4. Dear Emily — I’m saddened by your loss and please accept my condolences. This post is beautiful in its celebratory and grateful tone, and its acceptance of death as a part of life, a passage. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors in Minnesota, and hope to see you at Orchestra Hall! Cinda

  5. Lovely post. It is so hard to lose one’s mother. I felt like a part of me went with my mother when she died, but later after the worst of the grief was past, I began to feel whole again. And grateful that I had known her. Hopefully, you will feel something similar.

  6. James

    Appoligies for my brevity but it’s difficult to keep it together with such a touching tribute and I’m not the most expressive on the best of occassions.

    Having said that, I can’t imagine anyone not already impressed by your abilities and know a fair amount of people already proud of you for the good you’ve created with them.

    I hope, with time, your future can get a little bit brighter and know…(sorry, it’s a bit dusty here, ehrm)…and have confidence that through you, all your loved ones memories will live on and inspire others.

    All the best to you and yours. Truly. :)

  7. I am so very sorry for your loss.

  8. Jeanne Ellen

    Dear Emily,
    I am so happy you are relocating to Minneapolis. I can attest to the fact that it is a very healing city, filled with life and lots of culture and things to do. Your mother was taken much too soon, but your memories will carry you forward and your grief will subside.

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