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

 

 

 

watercolor painting of shipping container by emily weil

daily painting | container

[I’ve been writing this in my head since 4:00 this morning; I hope not to ramble too much.] About 20+ years ago, my dad died. Except for losing our beloved Maggie, the family dog, who died at 16 when I was 17 (my childhood buddy), I had not yet experienced a major death. I remember sitting at my desk after my father passed away, staring out the window as I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Mom died 16 years ago (age 88). It was not unexpected as she was ill. That process of loss and grief upended me; my feelings were so painful and intense I worried I was losing my mind (she was a difficult woman and we had a bumpy relationship). I managed to find a grief support group for women whose moms had recently died and discovered my feelings were completely normal and similar to every other woman in that room where we gathered to heal. What a relief. What I am experiencing today, and remember well from the mom-grief, is frustration as our culture allows very little room for intense grieving. Basically you get about 3 weeks, and then you’d best move on and get over it as it makes people uncomfortable. Shut down that heart-pain. Hurry up. It’s not comely. It’s practically unAmerican.

So I am finding I need to somewhat ferociously carve out space for my grief. To create a safe container where I can thrash around and weep and express rage and shock and heartbreak. The death of my two sisters, both by suicide, within the past six months, has shattered me. My pain is normal, healthy, and even welcomed, as it heals me. This grief is a treasure and I “cleave to it as it cleaves to me. I don’t have a choice about feeling it but I do have a choice to deeply learn from it” (quote from a friend). It is often unbearably lonely.

This extends my post today into the too-long territory, but I feel this poem is important:

On Pain by Kahlil Gibran 

And a woman spoke, saying, Tell us of Pain.

     And he said:

     Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

     Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

     And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;

     And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.

     And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

     Much of your pain is self-chosen.

     It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.

     Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility:

     For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,

     And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.

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10″ x 7″ watercolor, pen on paper = $90

 

 

 

monochromatic painting of diana randrup by emily weil

daily painting | tribute

I decided today, on this Memorial Day holiday, to do a simple sketch of my sister Diana who took her life about three weeks ago. It seemed fitting — her death was not a result of fighting in the military, but she was certainly a victim of life-long mental illness battles. And I mean no disrespect to our fallen soldiers. I always thought she was so gorgeous — long flowing hair, a beautiful figure, sharp, intelligent eyes, a full mouth that didn’t smile much. 20+ years ago my brother had a family reunion up on his lovely ranch in the Sierra foothills, where a photo was taken of Diana on the front porch (from which I painted today). I think it was one of the last family events she ever attended, as she became more and more housebound due to debilitating panic attacks and constant, paralyzing terrors. She suffered a great deal. It’s just weird, you know? Assimilating the fact that I don’t have any more sisters? The world feels knocked sideways. Anyways, I feel wretched most of the time, not a surprise. I’ll get through this terrible storm that is rocking myself and my family, but I will keep my life raft close-by. I’m pretty sure I won’t capsize. But the waves are pretty big. [Also want to extend props to my brother James who just completed his 50th Bay-to-Breakers, and he has Parkinson’s! Wowee. Fierce.] 

10″ x 7″ water soluble graphite, pen on paper

 

 

 

watercolor of wilted rose by emily weil

daily painting | droopy blossom

A wonderful and supportive friend brought me a lovely bouquet from her garden the other day, including a lush and gorgeous rose. The rose was getting droopy today, and I wanted to paint it. As a follow up to my sister Diana’s rose drawing in my last post. A rose that is done. Over. Spent.

If you have read my last blog, you will know I lost my sister Diana to suicide several days ago. And here is my request, my dear friends — please toss out hesitancy to talk about mental illness. Diana had any number of diagnoses, from depression to schizophrenia to anxiety disorders. A long list. She suffered a great deal and was hospitalized at times. While I am angry she could not or would not be more aggressive about her own care, it’s important to break down the taboos about being mentally ill. It’s essential we talk about it; most of us have been touched by it either directly or indirectly. I have had my own battles with depression and as a teenager considered suicide but decided it was too scary; I knew where mom’s full bottle of Seconal was (one of the things that pushed me close to that cliff was idiot parents of fellow teens in high school who gushed, “Oooh, these are the happiest times of your life! Enjoy them!” I thought, jeez, if this is as good as it gets I think I’ll check out now). Instead I found solace in the born-again Christian belief system which I no longer practice. People who commit suicide don’t want to die. They want the pain to stop.

It’s good, to be honest about these things and discuss disturbances and disorders and craziness and suicidal ideations. Put it all out on the table; there is nothing to be ashamed of. Someone who is bipolar or schizophrenic didn’t choose that any more than someone chooses a brain tumor or cerebral palsy. It’s physical. It’s a messed up brain. 

So. Please talk amongst yourselves.

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10″ x 7″ watercolor, pen on paper = $90

 

 

 

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.