After my mother’s funeral, a sudden wind swirled down into the church yard. It lifted skirt hems and fluttered the napkins on the long, lunch-laden table. It raised the edges of the photo collage that we’d created to show mom’s life. It sucked the painting from my hands, spun it slowly round and round, then up over the red roof of the small country church. And it was gone.
I know that when we are grieving, we are more open to receive messages from the spirit and the natural world. Mother Nature spoke powerfully that day. Don’t hold on, Carolyn. No need to hold on.
For some months, we’d known that our mother was dying. I had hoped it wouldn’t be too drawn out; cancer was everywhere in her body. We siblings had each taken turns giving care and visiting although only one sister lived in the same province as mom did. My husband, Bill, and I planned to visit the U.S. and then Ontario, before driving to see her in Saskatchewan.
We were staying with our friends Hannah and Bob Anderson in Massachusetts. He is a minister, she is a priest; both are artists. Their home atmosphere is calm; beauty is important to them. While there, Hannah gave me free reign with her water colours.
Wesley United Church in Vandorf, Ont. Photo by James Pogue
In addition to other outings, I’d taken mom to enough medical
appointments to have a clear picture of where she was at the moment that
I picked up Hannah’s paint brush. I took my time. In my mind’s eye, I
saw her connected to an IV. I painted her in a hospital bed with
hospital green sheets, more or less realistically. Then the paint that
caught my attention was sunshine yellow. She loved the sun, the heat,
the beach and the lakeside. I filled the paper to the edge with warmth.
As she was an avid and very successful gardener, I next painted bright
flowers and greenery. Flowers were under her bed and all around her.
Vines climbed the IV pole and the bed's headboard. I felt joyous as I
painted. Joyous and calm, both.
One week later, our mother died.
The funeral was held at Vandorf, Ont.'s Wesley United Church, which was
built in 1881 and which I attended as a child. As was the case in the
years of my growing up, the church women offered spiritual support and
practical care. This extended to setting up tables outside on the lawn
so that we could all enjoy the beautiful August day after the funeral
service. Bill suggested that I add the painting to the display table as a
final tribute. But Mother Nature had another idea. I don’t think anyone
but me saw it fly away.
Since then, when I sing Gordon Light’s hymn, She Flies On,
I see the painting flying gently through the air, above the people, the
bushes and gardens, above the towering trees and finally over that red
roof. I recall that strong message from Mother Nature. And believe I
hear my other mother’s laugh.
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