May has proven to be a difficult month for me. In between praying for death with an abscess tooth, I have lost two women who were both significant in my life.
First, a woman who was like a second mom to me. I met her at 19 years of age. I would go to her, numerous and various times throughout my life when battered by the world and events. She would help me make sense of it. When in my early 20s tragedy struck when my brother’s girlfriend was in an automobile accident, killing both her (18) an her 14 years old cousin.) I went to grief counseling, I went and talked to a couple pastors, none offered me the acceptance that came until I spoke to Judy. I will never forget her words, that just helped me through this difficult time. “What makes you think God only wants to be surrounded with old souls?” I think of this statement whenever I hear someone young has died.
Judy was an intelligent woman who kept up on world affairs. She loved her family, her partner, her friends, and I was so fortunate to be one of them. When she smiled, the world smiled, it was such a nice scene. I hope I always remember her smile. She encouraged me, time and time again, and guided me (when asked) throughout my life. I remember learning after stopping by to see her, that she had metastatic breast cancer. I stuck pretty close to her after that. Weekly contact, visits when I could. I am so grateful that I did this, now. I wanted to help her, as she has helped me throughout my life. She was wise, patient, and incredibly kind. She was so good to me, and I miss her horribly. I can’t think of her without tears running down my face. I know time will help me learn how to live and accept life without her, and she always told me she would always be there for me, even when I couldn’t see or hear her. How blessed I was to have her on my side.
This morning I learned that my 90 year old mentor and friend, Barbara passed away. It really hasn’t fully sunken in yet. You know that protective denial we are sometimes gifted with when the pain is more than we can bear? Barbara was an amazing artist, worked in several mediums. She had traveled a lot, had seen so much in her long life. I loved hearing her stories. She was always so generous with sharing them. The small town we live in will undeniably feel this loss, a community will grieve together.
Having only high school art class as education, I learned so much from Barbara. She had a keen eye, an eye that instantly told me where my artwork needed work. She was so creative, always painting for charities, for fund raisers for her beloved church, and writing articles for the Historians, or papers. She had presence. When she would attend my art classes, my students would look at what I did, then they would look over to Barbara to see what she did! It was comical. “When are we going to learn what Barbara just painted?” I liked to jokingly take credit for all her artistic abilities and talent, I am smiling recalling this. She taught me, and many of my students so much.
It’s been tradition for over a decade now that we would have a private ornament class, she, her niece, and myself. The last time was in October of last year and I remember when her niece and i were looking at Barbara’s finished ornaments and realizing how much she had lost. She was seeing things differently, forgetting, and i know that moment when we both saw this, we both started mourning for her then. It is so sad to see someone you love with failing health. It was hard to look at her last ornaments and not grab them to fix them.
I could go on and on about both of these beautiful women. And I will in separate writing. I am going to be 58 years old this year, this is the time when “losing people” typically begins. It’s a cold fact of life, but it doesn’t make it any easier. When I learned of Barbara’s passing I wanted to call my mom, she passed last year, and then I thought i needed to call Judy, who just passed two weeks ago. My life as I know it, and the luxury of having these quality women in my life has changed with both their passings. You always think you have more time… at least I did.
So today, I just want to talk about these losses. To suggest to you to reach out to those you love, even if for a brief phone call or visit. Time waits for no one, and while both of these women lived much longer lives than others i have lost and grieved for, their presence, their smiles, their strengths and weaknesses will be forever present in my heart. I know I am a better person for having known both of these women, and I know I am a better artist for having studied with Barbara for several decades. How fortunate I was, how fortunate I am that I will take all they gave to me with me as I face the future without them. Right now it seems fairly dark, but I know, this too shall pass, and the many gifts they taught and gave me, I will try to give to others.
As the rain falls outside my window, it matches my emotions. Today is a hard day, May has been a tough month, and life is so short. The pendulum of life and death has hit hard this month. And this, too shall pass.