Mandala Monday: Grief Revisited

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The other night I got to visit old friends. I was picking up my friend to go see a play, The Diary of Anne Frank. It has been several years since I had been in my friend’s home and while there I got to visit this old friend, a painting I had done in 1999. It is a very large canvas and it hangs in her living room. I painted this soon after we lost our first dog, Maia, a golden retriever, who is still known in our family as The Best Dog Ever. Maia helped me raise our three babies, no kidding! She was the most gentle, attentive mother who always watched over our children playing in the backyard. She loved them as much as I did and I always appreciated her maternal ways. Living far away from family, we didn’t have a good support system so the help I got from Maia was the unconditional love of her constant presence by my side. She helped me be more patient and was a great friend to me as she was to our children. She was nine when she died and I was by her side as she breathed her last breath while the kids were at school and Pedro was at work. It was a a tearful goodbye and I somehow had the strength to bury her in our backyard by the creek. I started this painting that day and don’t remember how long it took me to finish it but it helped me grieve her loss in the subsequent days.

The pain of loss feels similar whether it is the loss of a beloved pet or a loved one in human form. I won’t try to quantify which is greater or deeper, they are all great sorrows. I have endured many personal losses by now (parents, brother, grandmother, brother in law, distant relatives, and friends) and life will surely bring more. There are physical deaths we have to cope with as well as the losses that changes bring, as we go through many seasons in life. All involve loss and letting go. All involve pain and remembering hurts but it also comforts me to cherish them and love them all.

This painting is about hope and the autumn tree shedding leaves as it prepares for a winter rest. This is a change of life assured to all. I was grateful for the visit with old friends, those  still here on this earth and the many who have passed on. Certainly the play my friend and I saw later further magnified the theme of death, grief and loss of those who perished in the horrors of the Holocaust.  In some ways it was a hard night but the beauty was also there in celebrating the power and gift of unconditional love.

In the midst of pain there is great joy. Here is a picture of Maia keeping watch with our youngest, Sophia. Maia was probably watching the boys swinging from the rope tree across the yard.  We just celebrated Sophia’s 30th birthday!  Our boys, Jason and Corey, will be 34 and 32 this fall as well. We are grateful for each one of them and the gifts they all were and are in our lives.  Our family has grown with their marriages and we are blessed with two more daughters, a son, and four beautiful grandchildren. We are not a perfect family and we are flawed human beings who sometimes hurt each other but I believe that Love never dies, forgiveness will save us, and that is the hope that keeps me alive!  I am thankful for God who has been with me through many sorrows and strengthens me to keep going. “Surely it is God who saves me. I will trust in Him and not be afraid.” Isaiah 12:2

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