We all want dessert

The Godmother of this blog left earth unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago.

I started this blog on a writer’s retreat that my dear friend Leslie Cannon organized a few times a year. During this grand tradition, I got a lot of encouragement and tips from my fellow writers on blogging. Leslie took the time to edit some of my posts and always had an encouraging or funny comment here or on Facebook. She did the same and more for me in person, the definition of a true friend.

She also made me laugh. Check out this photo:

Leslie at the Oscars

This photo is Pure Leslie. She added herself to Ellen’s Oscar selfie. (Courtesy of Meg Cannon.)

With an aching heart, I thought to myself, how do you write about one of the most witty, terrific writers, you have ever met?

I chose to ask Leslie Cannon’s fellow writers and friends Ursula Roma and Jan Toraason to share what they read at the celebration of her life. I think what they wrote is perfection.

Leslie, Leslie, Leslie

by Ursula Roma

Leslie Cannon was many things to me. She was a friend, a fellow writer, a surrogate mother, and a close confidante. After my mom died, and after some break-ups, she was one of the safest people to talk to about these relationships. She didn’t try to fix things, but gave me kind, caring, loving attention. She listened. And though Leslie LOVED attention, she was very good at being present, and giving attention when other people needed it.

We all want dessert

Occasionally for our Tuesday writing group, Leslie would neglect to bring writing, and I ALWAYS thought it was a bit unfair. Not because the rest of us didn’t occasionally do the same, there were certainly times when one of us might not have brought writing or been inspired to write. But it felt unfair, because it FELT like NOT GETTING DESSERT, the highlight of the meal. It left me with a sense of deprivation, because her writing was so good, and so rich, and funny, that it left me WANTING when it wasn’t there. And so, that feeling of wanting – well, I think she’s kind of left me with that. She’s left ALL of us with that. We ALL want more. We all want more because that feeling of laughter, that bursting out with laughter is such a healing experience. I think that’s what we’re all going to miss. She could make us feel so good.

It was worth doing

Leslie might sometimes say, “Let’s bring the conversation back to me” – and often times, we did. Not just because she PLAYFULLY INSISTED we do so, but because it was WORTH DOING. Because the laughs you could get from Leslie were pretty much irreplaceable – so it was worth giving her that extra attention. It always paid off.

I know that Leslie would love to be here right now – and I think she probably is! She wouldn’t want to miss it! So what better way to commemorate her – to keep this conversation going -with strangers, with people she knew, with mutual friends and family, than to have a T-SHIRT to encourage us to share her stories!

(At this point, Ursula opened her shirt to show her Leslie, Leslie, Leslie T-shirt.)

Ursula and Jan.

Ursula and Jan.

I think we should ALL consider wearing these shirts – and wear them out into the world to engage others in conversation ABOUT LESLIE –and to keep these stories going BACK to Leslie – as long as we can. Because we certainly aren’t going to match her WIT anytime soon. So these funny stories, these kind and crazy stories – will have to comfort us and keep her memory alive. And I think, she might just like that.

A Prayer for Leslie

By  Jan Toraason

Our Dear Leslie – friend, sister, and mother – now knows the answer to the great What’s Next. We had a conversation about it last year as a party wound down and we sat together sipping and snacking.

Leslie wanted to talk about religion. What did I believe, she asked. I gave her my usual hazy answer, and she said she thought the same: that there is something connecting all that is to the original energy. We are pieces of stars. There is something greater than ourselves, a divine mystery that set the universe to life and lives in us all.

She brought light to our lives

One thing I don’t think Leslie could know before this week was the tremendous love that all of her family and friends – everyone who was touched by her humor, her generosity, and her wisdom – what we all felt for her. I’ve never seen such an outpouring on Facebook. Our shock and grief at the sudden loss. Our appreciation for the light she brought to our lives.

We all have little movies in our head starring Leslie Cannon: images of the way she laughs, the way she enjoys life, her smarts, her self-deprecating ways, her romanticism, her quick mind, and original sense of humor.

Me and Ursula. This shirt makes me so happy.

Me and Ursula. This shirt makes me happy.

Her greatest accomplishment

I sensed in this last year or so that Leslie had come to a peaceful and gentle place in her life. She seemed sweeter and kinder and more giving than ever. She seemed to open up and breath in the pleasure of being with her family, her son-in-law, and especially her daughters and granddaughters. So many times she told us stories of their brilliance, beauty, and charm. She laughed at the startling and wonderful things they said, the faces they made. Her children seemed to be her proudest accomplishment. I know they will miss her terribly.

We all know that just as life begins, so it must end. But somehow still, the ending comes as a shock, especially when it comes unexpectedly. Of all the ways to die, though, in your sleep may be the best way, as many have said. And that’s especially true for Leslie, who always loved a good nap. That’s how I like to think of her now, in a lovely deep sleep.

We will miss Leslie’s voice, certainly, and her writing. We will remember her humor, her inventive way with words, and her fearless naming of the ridiculous. I think she may be laughing with us tonight as she transitions, just a few steps ahead of us, into the open door of a new beginning. She has entered again the river of time, of pure energy, of the stars. Yet to us, Leslie was always a star.

Yes, she was a star that we relished.

And still, she is here in us, in all our stories, and in our aching hearts even as we set her spirit free.

So we thank you, Leslie, and can just assume you are smiling at us now to say you’re welcome. You will always be with us, and we thank you for bringing your everlasting radiance to our lives.

16 thoughts on “We all want dessert

  1. Julia, dear heart, there are tears dripping off my smile as I read your words, and Ursula’s and Jan’s. It makes my heart glad that the writing about and pictures of Leslie continue to surface. Her death really hit me when I drove to the lake from VA llast week. Often, I would fill those 500 miles with a call to Leslie. We’d laugh, gossip and share grandchildren stories . Her number is still in my favorites list but I no longer need the phone to talk with her. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As I sit here reading these words through my tears, I feel so proud of my sister. I was always proud of how smart she was and was amazed by her ability to write. As family we loved her and my sons (one of which is a journalist, btw) especially always enjoyed Aunt Leslie’s sense of humor, and yes even those unfiltered comments that sometimes bubbled to the top. Now I see how much you all loved her too. One more reason to be proud of my big sister. Thank you so much for sharing your memories of her.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Leslie’s face is so familiar. I don’t know if we ever met, but I feel like I did after reading all this wonderful tribute to your dear friend. When I had the pleasure of being a part of Women Writing, I was privileged to be in class with Ursula. I’m not surprised that this creative and talented writer and artist would come up with the wonderful “Leslie Leslie Leslie” t-shirts as a way to remember a woman so many loved and admired. What a fantastic, whimsical and lovely way to keep Leslie ever present. Her legacy will live on in your words, smiles, hearts and minds. She must have been an amazing presence and force to be reckoned with. My heart aches for your loss, but I’m smiling because of the love and gratitude you each express for her. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful. Les and I talked a lot about religion, but without focus. Our discussions, about every other weekend were the highlight of my days. We took up the better part of an hour and laughed for the whole time. Then, I didn’t know just how important she was to the people she touched. There is comfort in knowing how much she will be missed and how she will linger in all our thoughts. Thank you so much for posting this.


  5. Julia, I am so sorry for your loss. It is clear Leslie was much more than a friend to you and others who were blessed to call her such. She looks like just the kind of person I would have enjoyed calling friend.

    Liked by 1 person

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