My mother passed away just over three months ago. Though she had been having some health trouble, her passing came as a surprise to family and friends. She was tough and withstood tremendous discomfort. Heard often to say, “Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day,” she was cooking her breakfast on Friday morning, went into the hospital in the afternoon and passed away on Tuesday evening after just two and a half hours in hospice care. I miss speaking with her every day, hearing her daily synopsis of the news, what was going on with family, and her laugh. I miss sharing the birds that I had seen, and taking her for car trips to see the birds and other wildlife. Mother was dramatic. When we would see a hawk perched on the Vine Street Christian Church steeple, along the roads or soaring overhead, she would often exclaim, in her delightful southern drawl, “Ohhh, ah do love the fowl”. I miss her entertaining ways. Our family misses her way with words and phrases. Mother had more colloquialisms than you could shake a stick at.
I have heard that the depth of loss doesn’t sink in until some time has passed. I believe that to be true now. It has had its stages with me and will continue evolving. Having lost both parents and three of my four brothers, I can say that even though it is difficult to let go, there is a beauty surrounding the event like nothing else I have experienced. When we have had loss, everyone is unified, grieving and pulling together, loving and supporting one another, as at no other time. Let me say that I do not want to lose anyone else to experience this again, but I am more accepting.
Because there is time freed up with no longer looking after mom, and because I jumped right back into work after she passed, I recently took a week-long sabbatical to the mountains and did something that I have never done but always wanted to do…I took a painting class. It was lovely because the teacher, the talented and inspiring artist, Kim Barrick, was encouraging and generous. I rented a small cottage all to myself and had the luxury of time to fully dedicate into creating and learning something new. I made new friends and to my surprise saw an old friend. In the mornings we hiked, in the afternoons we painted. It was heavenly to have space and time all to myself in the evening. My cottage had a screened-in patio with a lawn and old growth forest beyond.
Of course, birds were everywhere in the mountain village. My mother would light up when you mentioned a Wood Thrush. I had not seen a one in probably 15 years. For the entire time that I was there, a Wood Thrush sang to me. The first morning that I heard the varied and beautiful song, I wasn’t quite sure if it was the Thrush. In the early morning of the second day I stood inside the patio and wished and watched for it to fly into view, hoping to get a glimpse. Sure enough, it briefly flew into the yard. It was a Wood Thrush! Not only did I have the melodic song almost nonstop from dawn to dusk, I had Pileated Woodpeckers, Towhees, Wrens, and tons of Robins (in the thrush family, much more common.) There was also a Cooper’s Hawk that I was alerted to when I heard the whole community of birds squawking. They were doing their best to run him off as he tried to steal the babies from the wren’s nest, unsuccessfully, I will add. This collective of art and nature was a spiritual experience and life changing. I felt, and still feel wonderfully, wholly loved, taken care of, and that I am doing the right thing. I found that I actually have some ability to paint and want to learn more techniques. I want to grow this. I have begun working through a twelve-week course, ‘a spiritual path to higher creativity’, with a book titled The Artist’s Way, by Julie Cameron. I will let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I will relish the renewal. Though I won’t be able to physically show my mother the paintings, I think she knows just what I am doing.