I haven’t had much inspiration to paint until a day last week. My son was wearing a Jarritos (Mexican brand of soda) t-shirt. On his shirt was a sugar skull which is used as part of the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration. Dia de los Muertos is celebrated in Mexico and it is a day (or a few) to celebrate the lives of those who have passed. People visit the graves of their relatives, pay respects, clean off the graves and leave flowers. Heavily decorated skulls are a large part of this celebration as are copious amounts of food, drink and festivities. I have never been a part of this holiday but I would love to be in Mexico and experience Dia de los Muertos. Honoring those who have passed sets well with the amateur genealogist in me. I have named my skull Freddie.
Shower time is sometimes my best time to think. Thoughts pop up when I am unguarded. I used to hate having too much time to think. Anymore, I long to get inside of my head because I have been so detached from myself and numb lately. I got to thinking about why this sugar skull felt so right to paint. This is a large step away from anything I’ve done before and it’s not been an easy painting. I’m still not done with it and I am agonizing a bit over the remaining elements because I really want to do my vision justice.
I usually do not have a preconceived reason behind my paintings. Only about three times have I painted something with a set meaning behind it. My skull was not one of those times. As I searched for the “why” it finally hit me, this is probably related to my mom and her recent-ish diagnosis. I am never good at understanding symbolism, even with such an obvious specimen as a skull. The symbolism of skulls is quite fascinating. I only just read about them today which helped me understand why this painting makes sense.
To clarify; my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor in August 2015, just before her 70th birthday. The doctor spoke of “prolonging life”, “radiation/chemo” and in an estimated time frames. I knew when she was scheduled for surgery there might not be good news even after the surgery. It has been six months (holy cow!) since we first learned of this cancer. At that time, the doctors gave her a year. She had a more recent event in December which landed her in hospital. There have been personality changes since this latest event and my dad says she is more forgetful and agitated than before. The doctors estimated she has another six months judging from I know not what. I do not know how soon things will progress. I’m not medically minded enough to fully understand everything in the MRI reports and that is very frustrating for me.
If you have read any of my other blog posts, you will know that I do not have the relationship some mothers have with their daughters. I haven’t written about the past 6 month much because there has been a lot to digest. There are my own feelings toward my mom to deal with. The present is also difficult to face and I know I’ve been avoiding my feelings for some time. I am trying to do what is best for me, even if it doesn’t look especially kind or wise in the eyes of others. Boundaries might seem cruel but they are necessary, even in times like this.
I’ve seen a number of relatives pass during my 40 years on this earth. Some have been more difficult to bear than others and there was nothing I could do to prevent any of them. I suspect the greatest pain from loss is ahead of me. For someone who likes to be prepared for every eventuality, the prospect of anticipating a loss of a parent and the feelings of grief are not possible. There is no real way to prepare for something like this. I feel as if we are waiting for a bomb to go off and none of us can defuse it. It is a very helpless feeling. Life rolls on no matter what we wish or will of it. We cannot stop time. We cannot go back and do things differently. One can only pick themselves up and face what is in front of them with whatever grace and dignity they can muster. I write this on my youngest son’s 18th birthday and that makes the evidence of time marching forward even more apparent.
As I pondered life in the shower today, I thought about what I will leave behind when I go. It might be a bit morbid to think about but I would like to be remembered for kindness. I don’t need to be rich or important. I simply want to leave positivity behind me and try not damage anyone in my wake. Not a bad legacy to strive towards in my opinion.