daily painting | sibs

Here is Quinn, one of three sisters I was commissioned to paint. It was a gift to their mom, who recently had a big-zero birthday (I am told she loved the paintings). A sibling-palooza! 

Sisters is the ongoing theme of my life these days. I have friends who have precious relationships with their “womb-mates,” and these connections my friends have with their girl sibs comforts me greatly. I was not close to my two sisters who have recently died, and that’s OK. It was more or less the result of growing up in a troubled, cold family. We all tried. Did our best. No lack of love there, but the bonds were thready.

I find this process of grief and loss a jumbled stew — it’s painful, excruciating, fascinating, illuminating, healing and deeply depressing. I know I am shedding things no longer needed during this crucible-like process. I will become clearer, more alive. I’m certain. But for now, the fog wafts around my brain and obscures my vision, for the pain of this loss is unspeakable, after my sister Diana’s violent act of suicide. I am showing up for this process, though. That, I feel, is very important and I think shows courage. Because I often feel upside down (though I mostly stay strapped in).

I loved a phrase I read in a book last night, “holding oneself… in the face of some emotional wind,” describing a character who had survived an intense and threatening experience (Peter Heller, The River). We are frightened, in our culture, of strong feelings. We want them to go away, and soon. But they need to be here, with us, moving around our hearts and minds and bodies until they have exhausted themselves (particularly since we’ve just been through a nightmare pandemic). I often have a hard time allowing myself to feel the grief — my brain says, “Buck up. You’re wallowing.” Or, “This is taking too long. You’re stuck.” Or, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” But reality is I am steeped in a profound process of loss, and it will take however long it takes, and I will stay present with the sorrows. I’m OK with that. And I side-step the harsh criticisms in my head that say I’ve lost my way. Because I haven’t.

7″ x 7″ watercolor, pen on paper

 

 

 

daily painting | diana

Diana Elizabeth Weil Randrup, my older sister, took her own life yesterday, Friday, May 7, a week short of her 76th birthday. She used a gun. I have no more sisters, now. Diana was burdened by mental illness and anxiety and suffered a great deal throughout her life. She leaves behind two grown children, three grandchildren, and three great-children. She lived in Crescent City, CA. Her daughter and granddaughter had tried to convince her to use more peaceful means, but she had long collected guns and threatened suicide. She was finally successful. Her adult granddaughter, who lived with her, had to endure the shock of finding her body.

This lovely drawing was created by Diana, who had deep oceans of artistic talent. It was a wedding gift to my daughter. 

She was exquisitely talented. I tried to convince her to draw and paint more, but could not. She wrote hilarious send-ups of visits from mom that she shared with select family members. She did beautiful drawings and yarn creations. 

And she was broken. 

In her last few years she refused all contact with anyone outside of her daughter and grandkids who were in the same town; she became agoraphobic and stopped driving. She was paralyzed by terrors and panic attacks. I would send her occasional notes and cards, knowing she would read them even if she didn’t respond. A few years ago, I wrote her a note that may have been more heartfelt than others (I don’t remember) but I about fell over when she wrote me back! I was thrilled that she reached out — very unlike her. After I read the card I tucked it inside my bra so it would be close to my heart and kept it there all day, crying with gratitude. I hadn’t seen her in 20 years, as she refused all family contact. 

This began a correspondence that lasted about a year, which thrilled me. We would exchange political views and anti-Trump rants, mostly. It was a point of connection, obsessing about politics, and we were both news junkies. Her granddaughter Karen told me she would put my cards on the mantle in the living room. I am so grateful to have had that thin thread of connection; she finally stopped writing, saying in her last card it was too stressful.

So, goodbye, Diana. I am enraged you put Karen in this position. And your daughter. You could’ve listened! We could have helped you have a more peaceful death. But you were in too much pain to think of anything but ending your misery. I get that, I do. I hope you are at peace now. We certainly are not.

 

 

 

daily painting | loss

Grief sucks. She’s a powerful bitch that mops the floor with you. She eats you for lunch. She puts cement shoes on your feet in the mornings. She flops your brain around until you don’t know your name, what day it is, how to prepare a meal (not that you have an appetite). It gets even more confounding when the person you loved, who died, was someone you struggled with in your lifelong relationship. It muddles things. I’m not very coherent today but I can write down the feelings that are fizzing through my veins and leaking out my pores: rageful, sad, angry, peaceful, resentful, grateful, confused, sorrowful, doubtful, betrayed, frustrated, agonized, tenacious, lost, wrecked, sturdy, disbelieving, broken, in searing pain, outraged, content, wretched, regretful, distressed, desolate, flattened, furious, despondent, incredulous, volatile, bereaved, exasperated, defeated, hopeful, squashed, depressed, panicked, funky, deranged, thankful.

My belief is that it’s best to hand yourself over to this process and feel every last damn mother-flipping feeling. It moves through you better if you don’t fight it. When my mom died, almost exactly 15 years ago, I experienced a “complicated grief,” according to counselors. I didn’t get along with Mom, and neither did my older sister. I felt the need to protect myself when I was around her; she could be cruel and demeaning. But my younger sister, who died a week ago, had a better relationship with her and was always loyal to Mom. Which was a tense, sore spot in our sisterly relationship. But it was the truth of our family dynamics, and I learned to accept it.

Making things even more murky, Kay and I could never talk about the painful moments of our childhood that we suffered together at the hands of our abusive, raging dad. That is a sadness I carry today, deeply. Always will, I suppose.

Thank you for reading through this long treatise on mourning with all its criss-crossing metaphors. It reveals the contents of my heart, and I appreciate your kindness and compassion for this life experience I am having.

Oh, about this painting. I worked on it over the weekend in my studio and it is helping to contain my grief and pain. I actually felt joyful, painting in my space again. But oy, you should see the spatters! I actually wrecked a small painting that was against the wall, too close to the Jackson-Pollock freewheelingness of it all.

22″ x 30″ acrylic, India ink, pencil, crayon on paper = $795