Seventeen years ago, my Mom died of a fatal heart attack. The melancholy that drifts in around the anniversary of her death threatens to overcome me each year. I decided to take a walk around the gardens at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to shake the blues and the dreariness of this winter day. As I rounded the edge of the museum, I was surprised by the peacefulness that swept over me. The 24-foot-tall sculptural head of a girl named Chloe carved by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa summoned my attention. The gray barren branches of the large oak tree behind her stood in stark contrast to her meditational visage, radiant even with closed eyes. Chloe’s powerful pose reminded me of my Mom’s determination to raise her 3 daughters to be strong women. I could always count on her encouraging words whenever life became hard to navigate. She often ended those conversations saying, “Everything will work out, and I’ll be thinking about you. Hold your head up high!” These words have been implanted in my heart, and I often use them to encourage my sons in their own challenges. As I turned to leave, I took this picture that shows the strong presence of the oak tree next to the imposing presence of Plensa’s Chloe. These towering images both represent to me the reassurance of my mother’s words. Her comforting words are as permanent in my mind as the images of oak and marble that spoke to me from that image. Throughout the seasons of our lives, the words of loved ones can anchor us over time and space.
After my husband died, hundreds of people came to see me to offer sympathy. After several hours I excused myself from the living room where some still were gathered. I just couldn’t shake another hand or shed another tear because I was exhausted. I fell across my bed as my son Andy came in to check on me. He wanted to know how I was doing. I swallowed hard and replied, “Right now I’m starving.” I asked him if he would go down to the dining room to make me a plate of food from the banquet laid out by my friends on our dining room table. He disappeared and returned moments later with a silver platter. As he sat the tray in front of me, I realized that he had brought me a tray consisting entirely of homemade brownies. I smiled at him as I reached for one of them. He told me that they were really good. It was one of those moments I can never forget. Eating brownies from a silver tray with Andy was a bitter sweet moment of grief. Grieving makes you hungry and why shouldn’t I eat a whole plate of chocolate brownies!