Hello, is Marilyn There Please?

“Hello, is Marilyn there please?”

Five little words bring my morning to a screeching halt. 

“M m m marilyn?” I stutter after a long pause.

“May I ask who’s calling?”

“This is (so and so) from (some charity I can’t recall.”

“Uh, I’m afraid she’s deceased.”

“Blah, blah, blah”

“Thank you, goodbye.”

Our exchange lasted hardly a minute. It’s amazing what can happen in a minute. I stare off into space after hanging up and then the tears come. Great heaving sobs.

My mother is deceased. Still. It’s not likely the situation will reverse. 

It’s been 2 and a half years now and lately I’ve felt the soul wracking grief has softened. Yet all it takes is one simple phone call to make my recent acceptance revert to missing her desperately.

To be honest, I’m not sure why they called my home number looking for her. I haven’t received such a call since immediately after her death. I cannot imagine what it must be like for my Dad. He must field similar calls on a more frequent basis.

The death of a loved one is the gift that keeps on fucking giving!

Here is a sneak peak at the new Strange Birds piece I began today

Rather than spiraling downwards further I begin an art piece for my ongoing Strange Birds collection. I make sure to give many birds the nobly knees my Mom was so fond of.

As always, I am soothed by the feeling of pen on paper. I slowly begin to feel better and soon can scarcely see the phone call in my rear view. 


Ashes to Ashes…

It took more than two years but we finally spread my Mother’s ashes as she requested.

I recall the day she told us where she wanted to leave the trappings of her physical life. It was about two weeks before she died and I decided to ask her what she wanted specifically. 

She spoke of a beautiful outlook west of the small town she and my Dad had called home for the past 15 years. She mentioned a gorgeous Vista of mountains and trees and a great gorge alive with a rushing river. My Dad knew where she meant so that part was set.

I asked next if she wanted her funeral to include anything special. She laughed and shook her head, saying, “you guys do whatever you think is right… I won’t be here to participate.”

I like to think the funeral was something she would have approved of. I am not so sure she’d be pleased with how long it took to spread her cremains. My Mom was a woman of action and waiting two years to complete our only real directive would likely have rankled. 

I feel better for having completed the task not so much for myself but for her. She had no choice about dying from cancer far too early, the least we could do is shake her forth into the wind and soil and sunshine where she wanted to rest.

Closure is not a feeling I can imagine myself finding but I do feel we accomplished something and there’s little my Mom loved more than crossing something off a to do list! 


Cleaning out a Loved Ones Closet Without Losing Your Shit Entirely

One of the more difficult tasks when a loved one dies is cleaning out their closet. Here is a list of ideas that helped me make it through this task on more than one occasion. 

– Use old suitcases if you have any that you can be rid off and/or labeled boxes. Make four piles to start; Give Away, Donate, Keep, Discard. Start with a section of items hanging up or where you feel better about starting. 

– Specialty goods like golf wear is pricy and a friend who plays might be happy to have the extra options. Mark clothing to be given away with the recipients name and bag separately. 

– Donations can go directly into the suitcase and then straight to the thrift store. Ensure garments have been laundered and are folded neatly.

This is a picture of a closet.

– Keep Items to Keep to a minimum but be gentle. I kept quite a few items of my Mom’s and realized they weren’t for me later on when I was ready to part with them.

– Discard items that have stains or bad rips as well as used intimate garments. 

– Once you finish a section of the closet or a drawer take a break. You’ve earned time to process and relax.

– Other sections to be dealt with are sweaters, summer gear, winter coats and boots, shoes, socks, underwater, sleepwear, t-shirts, scarves, purses and accessories, and decorative jewelry. You can also tackle cosmetics and other toiletries if you’re on a roll.

– When it comes to more delicate and sensitive pieces like graduation or wedding dresses take your time. Hang on to them as long as need be. One day you’ll be struck by what to do with them or perhaps you’ll find the perfect person to pass them down to.

– Let yourself get a little crazy as you sort. A friend of mine said it helped her to point out the items she didn’t like and give them a good scrunch and chuck and carefully fold the items she was attached to. I found having some music to sing along to quietly helped. I also found having help and company helped (not too much help though. One – three total at most. The object is to keep it simple and avoid the gong show potential). I don’t think my Dad or I could have done it alone.

– Most important to remember is to do what you can as you can. This is no easy task for anyone so give yourself a break. Just make sure you keep trucking away at it, don’t allow a break to bring all production to a screeching halt.


Another Momless Birthday

I thought of my Mom a lot on my birthday last weekend. I miss her carrot cake with cream cheese icing. I miss the chance, no matter how childish, to lick the beaters. I miss chatting with her over a glass of wine or summer fresh mojjito. I miss her in the lounge chair on her back deck, her skin the golden brown of a woman who gardens and walks and faces into the sun.

The Weight of Her Absence – Acrylic heavy body and ink on canvas – I painted this a year or so ago to represent how hard it is to have her gone from our small family and how heavily it weighs at times.

I miss all of her, even the bits that drove me crazy. She tucked her cotton tops into her elastic waisted pants and had a penchant for head to toe lime green. She used silly expressions like, “wrong-o sleigh bell lover” or “close only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades  (this usually pertained to curling)”.

I miss the warmth of her hugs and how freely she dispensed them. I miss our creative mash-ups. I miss watching the Gilmore Girls with her and so wish we could watch the new reunion season together.

I miss playing cards together at any campsite picnic table by the blazing lamplight. I miss trash talking and teasing and laughing until we cried. 

I miss her scent. Nothing heady or easily pinpointed. Cacao butter, mango, dryer sheets, pert shampoo, and, occasionally, a hint of apple blossom perfume. I tried to seal her scent into zip lock bags when I cleaned out her closet. Carefully folding a few t-shirts into a couple different bags and storing them safely in my top dresser drawer. Trouble is the scent dissipated…just like her. I can’t bring myself to let those bags go yet just in case, hiding somewhere deep inside, there’s just one more glorious whiff.

I know I can’t have her back but I still wished for her just the same when I blew out the candles.


A Snapshot of Grief


This photo was taken in June of 2014, about 2 month’s after my Mom died .
I think it is a good visual example, perhaps the only visual example, I have of my emotional state at that time.

I’m not wracked by sobs or crying out in anger, anguish and frustration – although I spent a lot of time in those states – I often simply ran out of energy as those heightened states of emotion are impossible to maintain for extended periods of time. The picture says it all, I look numb, wrung out, exhausted.

It’s important for me to look at this picture and see the tide of emotions with grief, I find it often feels as if I’m standing still rather than progressing. Progessing towards what I’m not always sure… Some form of acceptance perhaps, although I have yet to figure out what acceptance, for any extended period of time, looks like for me.

The other day I thought I’d lost my Mom’s opal ring and the sense of panic took me straight back to that primal state of grief. I found the ring later in the day and was able to pull myself together without losing a full day to grieving. Maybe I should see this as progress.

Although my progress feels as though it’s moving at a snails pace at least I now feel as though I am finally beginning to move. I’m not moving on, I don’t think that is what I want. I want the good, the bad, and the amazing parts of my relationship with my Mom to remain forever in my heart and mind. I want to move in a way which allows me to learn and grow and love and laugh and find my feet again while always keeping my Mom snuggled tightly in my heart.