What's in a name?

What's in a name? Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. In the case of Svane Capital it is both. Svane is Norwegian for Swan. But why Norwegian? My mother was Norwegian. She adored her Norwegian grandparents and stayed in touch with her family in Norway as far back as I can remember. I still remember looking through stacks of pictures with her as she explained who my second and third cousins were, their names and how their lives were related to mine. I've never been to Norway, but the pictures were beautiful, and I look forward to visiting my ancestors’ country someday soon. Nor can I speak Norwegian, but every time I write or say Svane Capital it reminds me of my mother who meant and still means so very much to me. Today, on what would have been her sixty-seventh birthday, I have decided share a letter I composed a couple years ago on the last leg of Ironman Texas. There is something about physical exertion that allows unrivaled mental and spiritual focus. As I rounded the turn for the final lap of the marathon leg (the last leg of a triathlon), I was hot, exhausted, and maybe a bit delirious, but I thought for a moment that I caught a glimpse of my mom sitting in the shade near the finish line. Tears came to my eyes. Yes, tears of sadness, but there were many more tears of joy. The rest of my run was blurry as memories came flooding back. Without a doubt, in more ways than one, I would not have been there without her. The noise, heat, thirst, and pain always stay on the edges, at the core it remains peacefully silent. I wrote and memorized a letter to my dear mom that evening. On her birthday, the year after she died, my six-year-old daughter asked if she could send Grammy a letter attached to a balloon. It has become a tradition. That year I sent my letter up too. Here is what is said:

Dear Mom,

You would have been here. I know it. You would have been proud even though it isn't much to be proud about, and you would have been worried even though there really is nothing to worry about. It is hot and I have ten miles to go, and memories of you are flooding my mind. When you left us that July night, you left a hole, but you didn't leave a void. What was it most of all that I miss about you? Why is it joy more than sadness that I still feel after you left us? 

The first thing I remember about you is your amazing love. You were always my biggest fan, even and especially when it was a fan club of one. You always encouraged me to pursue any interest, and provided the means and the encouragement for me to do so. You took me to the library. You brought me to swim practice. You made my lunch. You praised my efforts when they were feeble and halting. You believed in me long before there was any evidence that your belief was well placed. And yet it was authentic belief. You loved me unconditionally. Not for a minute of my life did I wonder if I mattered. Nor would you have loved me any less regardless of whether I succeeded or failed, regardless of what I said or left unsaid. Much has been written about motherly love. No mother ever loved a son more than you loved me.

But your love didn't stop at me. It extended to the rest of our family of course, but amazingly, it often included perfect strangers. There was the time we were eating pizza and you saw a bedraggled stranger sneaking around the salad bar stealing food. You went to the cashier, paid for his dinner, and then walked over to him and told him he could freely eat all he wanted, you’d already paid. There was the migrant farm worker who said hello to you in broken English, and you asked if he had a family. When he told you his dream was to learn to read and write so that he could better provide for them, you bought the materials and taught him yourself. And then there was the frightened foreign student from India who approached you on campus and asked for directions. You gave him a ride, and more. You invited his whole group of friends into your house, and over the next four years helped them adjust to, and succeed in a new culture. That timid student became a man. Years later, when he graduated as a US Army Ranger, it was you who he hugged first. 

My other memory is of you talking about Jesus. Sometime annoyingly so, before I understood what you meant. He was never far from your mind. Some of my earliest recollections are you praying with me and telling me that Jesus loved me even more than you did. Your faith was so simple. He would fix my scraped knee. He would help me focus during the test. He would heal my hurt. He would take care of my brother. He would never leave me. He would always be there, and would always love me. Later on, in the darkest hours of my life, I remembered your complete and simple confidence in Jesus.  Maybe it wasn’t simple, maybe it was simply true. Maybe He really was God, and maybe He really did love me. Maybe I too could find grace and redemption, if I searched with an open heart. He is, He does, and I did.

The love you showed freely to everyone who came across your path and the Jesus you were constantly talking about weren’t two different things, He was one and the same. Over and over, at your memorial service and in the days and months that followed, people who had known you came up to me to tell me what an impact you’d had on the course of their lives. Every one of them told me that you had shown compassion for them, or done something kind for them when it was completely unexpected. “Your mom was incredibly special to me.” ”Your mom was the most selfless person I’ve ever known.” “Your mom changed my life.” “Your mom prayed with me.” “Your mom told me about Jesus.” And on, and on.  

I’ve come to appreciate what a life worth living yours was, and I know better than most what a difficult life it was for you. You struggled mentally, emotionally, and physically with the effects of depression your whole life. For years and years, there was little light in your darkness. But yet the light shined so brightly through you. Ultimately, your joy was transcendent because of the brilliance of its source. Your life and its impact are both inexplicable without Jesus. 

And that is why your memory brings me such joy beyond the sadness. Thank you for bringing me into this world, for loving me unconditionally, and for supporting my dreams. I’m so grateful to have seen you run a race that touched so many. I am so thankful to have been able to tell you how much I loved you the day before you crossed the finish line. I will always love you, and forever be proud to be your son. I’ll see you soon.