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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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Artifacts Left Behind

When a loved one dies, possessions are left behind and we have to decide what to keep and toss. While many possessions hold fond memories, some do not. A few hold special meaning, are symbolic of pivotal events in our life, or just hold something crucial of the other person’s spirit.

One of Ev's pottery bowls had me in this quandary.

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. Ev went along to provide support.

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

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 after Ev died, after struggling with brain cancer, my friend Molly died and Francesco began drifting on grief’s moorless ocean. They had been married for eight years, and did much to keep me afloat after Evelyn's death. Their's was a love story of soul mates finding each other in their thirties, and whose life together was 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 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. Francesco and Molly moved to southern California to begin a year of experimental chemo that was not successful.

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

Even though she was struggling, Molly reminded me to live in the moment and celebrate what was good today, even if other things were going wrong. To be with someone you love is everything, she believed, and to deny this joy was to deny life.

            *

When Molly died, I knew there was little that would cool the fire of Francesco's sorrow. Because he now lived 500 miles away, I could not stop by every few days and sit with him in the silence that filled his home.


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

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