Temporary Blindness

My mother died a few weeks ago and, as I now go about the tedium of daily life, everything feels a little bit vulgar. From what I’ve read about the grieving process this is all very normal. The idea that life can simply keep moving along when you’ve lost someone extremely important to you just doesn’t feel right. People remind me, “She would want you to get on with your life and be happy” and so on. Of course that’s true, but it’s also hard.

 

Mary_Cassatt,_1902,_Reine_Lefebre_and_Margot_before_a_Window
Mary Cassatt, Reine Lefebre and Margot before a Window, 1903

I never thought to tell her while she was alive, but my mother was my soul mate. Or maybe I’d call her my “soul twin.” She understood me like no one else, and with that knowledge she challenged me to be the best person I could be, while also wholeheartedly loving and supporting me. She was a perfect mother and she was also my best friend. The warm, motherly feeling you get when you look at a Mary Cassatt painting? Multiply that by about a million and you might come close to understanding how I felt about my mother.

It was from my mom that I learned that living could be art. She knew how to make life a celebration—how to bring joy into life. When I was in high school and she was working on a graduate degree, we both hated Sunday nights, dreading the return to the workweek. So she started taking me to Sunday night movies as a way of distracting us (contingent on my having finished my homework). Long car rides were never boring; they were opportunities to admire the countryside and have long, meandering conversations. Special meals were planned with tremendous care to every detail from the menu to the serving dishes. Her homes (and she moved a lot and had many of them) were sanctuaries. They were beautiful and comfortable and welcoming, just like her. I could go on forever. Ultimately, what strikes me about my mom is that, in spite of her fair share of setbacks, she never lost her sense of wonder. She continued to be moved by things until the day she died. She noticed the small beauties of the world that other people would miss. I’ve tried to bring her sense of wonder to this blog, which is essentially indebted to her.

Which also makes it (my blog) hard to maintain right now, since it’s hard to find wonder and beauty in a world without her. And on those moments that I do notice something moving or interesting, I feel sad that I can’t share it with her. I know time will change that; I know that in time I won’t mind as much that time will have changed that. For now, I have “The Calm Coloring Book” that my husband got for me a few months ago as a not-so-subtle gift. It’s amazing how meditative the task of coloring can be. It shuts my mind off for a while, makes me focus on nothing more than the shapes and colors and patterns in front of me. Sometimes beauty and wonder and awe come in the form of silence. In not seeing. Just for a little while.

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8 thoughts on “Temporary Blindness

  1. Dear Ellen, It is difficult to find the words to convey to you how deeply your post touched me. Although your mother and I shared a long distance friendship, it was always filled with conversations that painted an abundant world filled with All sorts of possibilities. When Neal and I decided to fulfill a dream and live here in Italy, she was our biggest supporter and cheered us on. It was our fondest desire to have them here with us. Your mother embodied the energy that we all have within us if we only allow it to flow. She told me the cancer was a “chronic condition” that she had learned to live with. It did not define her or take away from the essence of who she was. We shared so many thots about life and always she was grateful for it all. She filled her world with family and friends and the contentment that comes with knowing she was loved. I miss her everyday, but I feel her near at the same time. I am eternally grateful she was my friend and kindred spirit.

    Ellen , I would finish my letters to her by saying “Life Loves You” and I know in my heart of hearts that that this continues on always.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I send you love, Lyn

    .

    Lyn

    Lyn Anglin 6083417899 1239 Cerro Gordo Rd Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 nlanglin@hotmail.com

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    1. Thank you so much for your lovely note, Lyn. “Life Loves you.” That’s perfect, and I think you’re right that that idea continues, even after. You were such a good friend to her, and I know that sustained her through some hard times. xoxo.

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  2. Ellen, your tragic words tear at my heart. But in your words, your mother’s voice pours in, with beauty, insight, wonder, and a profound patience. She lives in you.
    Love her. Love you.

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    1. Your note is a great comfort to me, Claudia. It is my hope that I can keep her wonder alive in the world, in myself, and in my son. She was a great gift. Thank you for writing. Lots of love back to you.

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