Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Artifacts Left Behind: Molly

A Painting and a Pottery Bowl

When a loved one dies, possessions are left behind that we have to decide to toss or keep. While many possessions hold fond memories, some do not. But there are a few possessions that hold special meaning, are symbolic of an important event, or summarize the person’s spirit.

One pottery bowl in particular reminds me of Evelyn’s search for wholeness.

Two months before she died, Evelyn went on a trip to Arizona and New Mexico with Barb, a childhood friend. It was to be a therapy trip for Barb who was grieving her husband’s death, and Ev went along to give support.

As they traveled around, Ev took photographs of the desert, the blue-shadowed snow, the rainbow rings in petrified trees, an insistent raven, and the abandoned Wupatki Pueblo. There, walking among the remains of ancient civilizations, Ev discovered a spiritual home and found the peace that had long eluded her. When she came back, she brought a few pieces of native artwork for us to keep and a few to give to close friends.

After she died, I saw the small bowl, one-inch in size with a simple design, made by Chinana of the Jemez Pueblo. It was on Evelyn’s wooden knick-knack shelf that held signposts of where her life had turned.

Three years later, after struggling with brain cancer, my friend Molly died and Francesco began drifting on grief’s great moorless ocean. They had been married for eight years, and did much to keep me afloat after Evelyn died. Francesco had met Molly years before when she was married, but waited. When her marriage broke up, he asked if she would be interested in going out. It’s a love story of soul mates finding each other in their thirties, and whose lives together were marked by battling cancer.

During the first year they were married, Molly began having problems walking and doctors found a tumor growing on her brain. She came out of surgery and chemotherapy smiling, but one leg was left a bit unresponsive and sometimes she had trouble remembering details. It also slowed her work on new paintings. One month before she reached the magical five-year mark when doctors declare you cured, a test revealed a problem, and Molly began a year of experimental chemo that was not successful.

Molly was a painter who had a wonderful eye for composition, especially when creating collages of unusual materials. She loved the Native American culture of the Southwest, asiago cheese, nature, and Francesco.

One of Molly's paintings that hangs on Francesco’s wall is an abstract work of Yosemite and combines old clothing patterns, canvas, and oil paint. At first I thought it was of pine trees in a snowstorm, with ice shards, circles, and green objects scattered about. Now I see the light of creation coming through the mist and the sacred hoop of the Great Spirit renewing the life of animals, people, and coyotes.

Through her struggles, Molly taught me how to live in the moment and celebrate what is good today, even when so many other things were going wrong. To be with someone you love is everything, she believed, and to deny this joy is to deny life. She left this vision in her painting to remind Francesco.

When Molly died, I knew there was little that would bring Francesco comfort. And now he lived 500 miles away, so I could not go and sit with him in the silence that descended and filled his hours.

At first I thought I would send the pottery bowl to him, and he could pour a thimble of Molly’s ashes into something made of burnt earth and sacred pueblo. But I could not give away what had become an artifact of Evelyn’s rebirth. I sent words to Francesco instead, scraped from the dry canyons abandoned in my heart.


  1. Your words are beautiful, as always. I love the image of the moorless ocean of grief. And words scraped from the dry canyons abandoned in your heart. Beautiful. I know how it is to become attached to something that symbolised birth or rebirth of your loved one. I have a framed photo on my shrine of Green Tara--she is the bodhisattva of compassion and is said to have risen on a lotus from a lake of Avalokitesvara's tears. My husband loved Green Tara and this picture was his. I think of him and his compassion and spirituality every time I see that photo. So I think it is beautiful that you have this little bowl to remember your Evelyn.

    1. Compassion rising from our tears. Beautiful! Thank you.