On Sept. 9, Diane Shader Smith came to Lewis & Clark to present on her daughter’s posthumous memoir “Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life.” What was advertised as a reading from the memoir was actually a presentation encompassing many different topics, including the intricacies of cystic fibrosis, problems with the American health system and a loving mother-daughter relationship.
Shader Smith’s presentation of the memoir was arranged by Associate Professor of English Pauls Toutonghi. The English department felt that “Salt in My Soul” is a book that is impactful and relevant to LC students.
“The journal that Mallory Smith left, stands as a testament to one young woman’s resilience, in the face of a horrible disease,” Toutonghi said via email. “Human suffering, in all its forms, should not be minimized. Malory’s memoir reminds us that the principal gesture of a writer is to care, no matter the circumstance.”
In 2017, Shader Smith’s daughter Mallory Smith died from cystic fibrosis. According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s website, cystic fibrosis is “a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.”
“Salt in My Soul” is a memoir that consists of Smith’s personal thoughts, memories from her life and commentary about her struggle with cystic fibrosis.
According to The New York Times, “‘Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life’ based on Ms. Smith’s journals from ages 15 to 25, was published in March, and Ms. Shader Smith has been on an extensive speaking tour at universities and corporations across the country.”
All of Shader Smith’s personal profits from the memoir have been donated. The New York Times states that “All of the proceeds are going to various nonprofits. They raised $5 million during Ms. Smith’s lifetime, and more than $800,000 through Mallory’s Legacy Fund, established after her death for phage therapy research.”
LC was Shader-Smith’s 73rd stop on a 100 college tour. Shader Smith is a mother who is desperate to raise awareness concerning this incurable disease. Yet, instead of letting the death of her child put a halt to her life, Shader Smith has targeted the solvable problems that Mallory faced while in the midst of chronic illness.
In her own words, Shader Smith was “really struck by how Mallory’s book, and messages, seemed to strike a chord with the audience at Lewis & Clark.” Shader Smith seemed very touched by the audience and spoke to many of the students who attended the talk.
“One of the most exciting parts about speaking today was watching how people were engaging with Mallory’s story and then coming up to me after to share their stories,” Shader Smith said.
During her presentation, Shader Smith described herself as a mother who had “a child with an expiration date.” However, by publishing her daughter’s memoir, she has honored her life and offered solace to those suffering from an illness themselves. In this sense, her daughter lives on. By presenting a series of talks from her own perspective, Shader Smith has found a way to heal from loss herself.