The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole. (Wirthlin, Joseph B. (2008, April 2). Concern for the One. General Conference.)

Lance was different. Anyone, upon first meeting him would notice, but being my older brother he was just Lance to me, not a person with Aspergers. He taught me how to make my bed, water the plants, make a peanut butter and honey sandwich, and even taught me how to drive. The evening of January 2, 2024 my dear, sweet older brother, Lance, passed away.

The night sky captivated my big brother.  Now that Lance abides in the heavens, I wonder how dramatically his view of the galaxy has changed. Certainly, Lance will have watched the solar eclipse from the best seats in the house.  Always the planner, Lance had begun making arrangements to be in the direct path for the total eclipse of August 2017, three years before it passed over. He dutifully kept us updated on all heavenly occurrences and enjoyed sharing his passion by inviting us to peer through the lens of his telescope to see the planets, moon, and stars.  When he learned of his niece’s enthusiasm of the star filled sky, he gifted her a telescope one Christmas Eve.

Lance loved the holidays. He would decorate his humble home for every season, especially Halloween and Christmas. He even had a “Christmas Plan” which he shared with EVERYONE! His logic was simple; just put $20 every other week in your Christmas shoebox. Then finish buying all of your gifts by Thanksgiving. Decorate for Christmas on Thanksgiving weekend, NOT BEFORE! By finishing all your shopping and decorating early, you can truly enjoy all the Christmas festivities.

One Memorable Christmas Eve

I remember when I was young, there was an older boy who was physically and mentally disabled. He had a speech impediment and walked with difficulty. The boys used to make fun of him. They teased and taunted him until sometimes he would cry. . . I can still hear his voice: ‘You’re not kind to me,’ he said. And still they would ridicule him, push him, and make jokes about him. (Wirthlin, Joseph B. (2008, April 2). Concern for the One. General Conference.)

During Christmas season, which to Lance was exactly the day after Thanksgiving to January 1st, Lance’s front door looked like a giant, boxed Christmas gift. He literally wrapped it with foiled Christmas paper and a red ribbon. Yet, with all these annual festivities and fun Lance enjoyed, one Christmas Eve stands out among all others.

I recall Lance asking our mom if he could get a present for his friend. I could feel his excitement. Lance was in junior high school. Even though I didn’t understand it at the time, being only about six years old, for Lance to have a friend was a really big deal. He was not only friendless because of his odd behavior, but was mercilessly teased by others. What made things more difficult, is Lance was beginning to grow facial hair due to early puberty. He was nicknamed Magilla Gorilla after the popular cartoon character.

Our mother took Lance to pick out a gift, a Timex watch. I have never forgotten his joy at being able to give his friend a present. The gift given to Lance from his friend, he carefully placed under the tree. When Christmas Eve arrived, our family gathered around the decorated tree to exchange gifts from each other and friends. Waiting with anticipation for his named to be called, Lance’s face lit up when my father handed him his gift from his friend. When Lance opened it, he burst into tears. I didn’t understand why my big brother was crying as he held the Magilla Gorilla doll from his “friend”.

A few years later Lance did find a good friend, John Hicks. The transformation in Lance was quite amazing. He became more out-going and confident. He learned that people loved hearing jokes; so Lance took to making up jokes, often laughing at his own creative punchlines. Lance even began to date.

Lance’s girlfriend of many years was Claudia. Lance, Claudia and her best friend, Connie, became a well known trio. I recall going to Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Maryland looking for a Christmas gift for Claudia. I knew she liked to wear “medical scrubs” for tops, and spotted the perfect store. As I stepped into the store the salesperson approached me. She asked how she could help. As I described what I was looking for, a look appeared on the salesperson’s face. She began describing Claudia and her two friends and asked if the gift was for her! I went home with the very top Claudia had picked out for herself.

For many years Lance, Claudia, and Connie went everywhere together. Lance could drive and had his own car which was something close to having superhero powers to Claudia, Connie, and their friends. It wasn’t only them that loved Lance’s generosity with his abilities. Lance drove me, many of our siblings (there are nine of us), and even our friends everywhere.

During this past Christmas, I posted pictures and a paragraph about Lance. I laughed when I saw that several of the comments revolved around memories of Lance driving them from place to place, and even taking them to their driver’s test.

Our Personal Uber Driver

At eighteen, Lance got his driver’s license. This is when Lance became our personal “Uber” driver. It seemed as though he was constantly in the car going to pick up or drop off one of us along with our friends. One of my favorite memories of Lance’s chauffeuring me became his first introduction to Monty Python.

My friend and I asked Lance if he could drop us at the movie theatre. When we arrived, he was irritated when he discovered the film was short. He complained that by the time he returned home, he would need to come right back to pick us up.

We had invited him to go with us from the beginning as we often did, suspecting how much he would love the movie. We tried to explain that the craziness of the show Monty Python’s Flying Circus, was right up his alley; and we were certain he would like it. Lance was firm about not wanting to see any movie about King Arthur. So, he dropped us off and drove away. To our surprise, a short time later, Lance joined us in line grumbling about not wanting to turn around to drive back to the theatre; so he might as well see the stupid King Arthur movie.

Since the theatre was small and had sold out, Lance took a seat across the auditorium from us. When the opening credits appeared followed by the looney opening scene of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, everyone in the theatre turned their heads toward Lance. His roaring laughter seized the audience. The two coconuts being banged together in place of a horse was just too much for him! He returned to see it at least a dozen times taking anyone who was willing to go with him.

Feeling Safe and Loved – The Henderson Family Reunion

Every summer, Lance would drive with Claudia and Connie to attend our Henderson Family Reunion in Roanoke, Virginia. This event was the highlight of their year. All three of them would take a portion of their sparse wages and put it in their Reunion Shoeboxes to have the funds for their trip. When Lance could no longer drive, I would take the three of them down. Toward the end of Lance’s life, my sister Tina would take him until he could no longer travel.

Enya’s song Anywhere Is will always remind our Henderson cousins of Lance. For nearly 20 years at every reunion, the family lined up to participate in The Lance Trance Dance, appropriately named by our cousin Kay. Lance had developed this line dance to Enya’s song and wanted to perform it on the Ellen Show. Over the years, he tried fruitlessly to get family and friends to join in his dance; so he’d often do it alone, developing different arm movements.

When I stepped in as Reunion Chair, he pleaded with me to engage the cousins in the dance. My heart softened when our great-uncle Paul Wiemer gathered with a few people in his basement performed the first official Lance Trance Dance. After we ran through it a few times, I promised Lance we would include it in the main reunion activities. Surprisingly, it was a big hit! Feeling ridiculous, cousins laughed through the entire dance.

When I spoke at Lance’s funeral, which was held in Roanoke, Virginia among many family members, I expressed my gratitude for the love and kindness they always showed him and his friends. Had Lance, Claudia, and Connie not felt safe and loved, they would have never returned.


… Some are born with physical or mental disabilities that cause personal suffering for them and struggles for those who love and care for them. …One day all of these mortal burdens will pass away and there will be no more pain.” (Oaks, Dallin H. “Strengthened by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Ensign, Nov. 2015, p. 61–64.)

I was amazed to see the out pouring at Lance’s passing when I posted on Facebook that Lance had passed away; 101 people “liked” the post  and 109 comments ensued. I felt Lance had risen far above the scars of teasing and humiliation by choosing to serve others where he could. His creative nature and his great pleasure in engaging people to dance, laugh, and have fun brought himself and all of us joy.

“Lance was such a game changer in my life and made many things and events possible. He was always there to give us rides to and from wherever we went. What’s more important is he always kept us laughing!!! His wit was special and his stories and jokes still resonate. God Bless Lance and special prayers to you and the Andersons.” – Hal

“My heart goes out to all of you. Lance was truly one of great ones! He blessed our lives in so many countless ways! – Rita

“Lance always made people smile and me being invited to participate in the family Lance Trance Dance was an extreme honor. It’s a true blessing to know that ‘families are forever.’”  – Roxanne

“My heart is broken to hear about Lance, the guy was so good hearted and just a good person. Thanks Lance for always being there when we all needed you.” – Johnny

Our Savior experienced and suffered the fulness of all mortal challenges ‘according to the flesh’ so He could know ‘according to the flesh’ how to ‘succor his people according to their infirmities’ [Alma 7:12]. . . His Atonement empowers Him to succor us—to give us the strength to bear it all. (Oaks, Dallin H.  “Strengthened by the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 2015, p. 61–64.)