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Sarah Smith Dixon was adamantly present when her son Peter married in Italy two years ago. "Her balance was just really, really off at that point. It had been for a while," her older son Andrew remembers. "But nothing was going to stop her walking down that aisle."
She had already struggled with metastatic breast cancer for 12 years by then. "As we were walking, we’re seeing all of her friends," Peter recalls. "And she’s stopping to wave at everyone and she’s blowing kisses, and it was just a really powerful moment."
Sarah loved Italy almost as much as she loved her sons and her friends. The college semester she spent there inspired her into architecture school, even into composing an opera.
Architecture and music were just two of many lives. There’d been an earlier life as a champion horseback rider, and there was a later one teaching English to immigrant children. But life as a mother rose above any other.
"She would work during the day, take care of us, take classes at night, do her homework at night, she wrote a thesis, and we had cats and a dog. I mean, I don’t how she did it. It was just amazing," Andrew remembers.
Love, as a form of religion, sustained her through severe pet allergies, single motherhood, and 14 years of infiltrating cancer. Sarah volunteered for drug trials. Even if they didn’t work for her, they might work for others. And the weekly trips to the clinic were downright celebratory.
So we would walk in with her, and everyone -- the receptionist, the doctors, the nurses, all the staff -- would see her, and would just be like 'Hi Sarah, how are you? Good to see you!' And she would just wave to everyone," Andrew recalls. "It’s not safe to take your hands off that roller, but she would still wave."
As her gait grew more tenuous, her walking and waving grew more determined — down the marital aisle, into the oncology clinic, along annual fundraisers for breast cancer with her sons.
"She was a celebrity at these walks," Andrew adds.
The year before she died, she managed the route one last time. Peter’s new son was in a stroller next to her. The act of walking had become exhausting, but the metaphor represented her life: ever-onward, ever-radiant, ever-accompanied.
Did you know Sarah Dixon? Share your memories in the comments section.
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