A Postcard Stirs up Fond Memories.
(This was first written for the my group of writing friends in response to the prompt of the painting by Gwen John , A corner of the artist’s room in Paris.)
The image of the empty chair facing the shrouded window flips over and over in my mind like a postcard. Memories are of a loved one lost, especially my mother, as the 7th of October is the anniversary of her passing two years ago. There are so many of us who know what it is like to sit vigil at the bedside of a loved one. It is hard as the past memories of joy and wonder fill one’s mind and those times cannot be conjured up again even if they are remembered; old bodies are frail and tired; then there is the very present moment of suffering that seems to linger on and on even as we know they will be going soon. This is what dying is like for some. Every breath seems to feel like a labored drum beat and it feels hard to sit quietly and witness their suffering. For my mother it was hard for her to be witnessed as the weak suffering one.
Eventually for me, it became about her future, the release of her suffering, the hope of a better place beyond the veil – beyond the shrouded window. I now can imagine her cycling, walking on her favorite beach enjoying the waves, watching my father swim across the bay or climbing the mountains. It’s the freedom she loved and it’s the freedom of moving into that future that I had to give her by letting go of her.
Were there regrets? As someone close to me said at the time, “there will always be regrets because one can always think of one more thing that one could have done”. But I know I did my best to look after her and show her love and it wasn’t humanly possible to be in all places at the same time and so I had to extend grace to myself. It is what I believe she did for me, extend grace.
Now that she is gone I see her, from day to day, in my children as they make their way in adult life: their creative free spirits, their independence and their ability to make things happen; I see her more and more in my own little habits and ways too. I hear her voice as I cook, telling me about the herbs and spices my father used in cooking; in the garden I hear her as I pull out weeds and as I hear the birds singing I know she would be enjoying them too. She was a deeply spiritual woman as well and her hunger for Spirit and the flow of life was passed onto me, which came from my grandmother and beyond.
By acknowledging the empty chair I welcome and embrace her unique qualities. I know she is on the other side of the veil, waiting for me one day. In the meantime I honor that empty space with warmth and love as that postcard settles down from my mind into my heart with fond memories.
This is dedicated to all I encounter who might be going through a similar experience at this time. My thoughts and prayers are with you.