Friday, February 22, 2008

January BJP - dedicated to my mother

January is the month my mother was born, the page for this month is about her and some of my memories relating to her.

She was a physically beautiful woman. Standing 6 feet tall with naturally curly auburn hair and green eyes. She was also one of the most intelligent people I have ever known. She was 22 when she married my dad who was 20 years her senior, and while he was quite a bit older - no one would have known that by looking at them. I believe they genuinely loved each other, it appeared that way from my perspective anyway.

My mother battled mental illness for as far back as I can remember, having her first 'nervous breakdown' when she was 29 - I was 7. My mom was gone for 2 weeks for that particular episode and at my age, it seemed like an eternity.

It would not be her first 'breakdown' or suicide attempt, there would be several more over the years. She was diagnosed with just about every mental illness you can think of, by as many different doctors. I can only imagine what might have gone through her mind during the dark times. It hurts now to even ponder the possibilities. My dad (and my grandmother) was always there to take care of her and us kids, I realized later in life how hard this must have been for them. Going through it - I never would have known, it was 'normal' for us. Most families in our neighborhood went through trials and tribulations as families. Ours didn't seem any harder or easier than the others.

In my late teens my father had a massive stroke from which he never recovered and eventually passed away about 2 years later. During that time my mother's lucid moments were, sadly, few and far between, there were several suicide attempts and increasingly odd behavior.

She was lost without my dad, he was her rock - her safe place to fall. With that gone, I think life was scary for her. About 6 months after my dad passed away and a few days after she had been released from a mental hospital, my mother shot herself - no 'attempt', this time - she was serious. I imagine she had lost all hope at that point.

Some of my best memories are of her singing and playing the piano. My mom did not read music, but played the piano beautifully (and perfectly) by ear. She also had a wonderful sense of humor when she was lucid (which really was the vast majority of the time).

I jotted down wishes as I beaded this piece...

I wish I (and the doctors) knew more about mental illness back when you were so sick.
I wish I was more compassionate when you were afraid of the dark.
I wish everyone could feel your hopelessness and fear for one minute - may be then, there would be a stronger sense of urgency for answers and options for the mentally ill.
I wish I could go back in time and hug you and tell you that it's okay and I'm okay.
I wish I could give you one day to spend with your grand kids and great grand kids.
I wish I could hear you play the piano and sing one more time.

January 20, 1938 - April 22, 1982


abeadlady said...

Oh, Grace. Having worked with the mentally ill for years now, I know what you mean about the lack of care for them. I also had two people in my life who killed themselves; My adoptive father when I was 20 and my daughter when she was 21.
You have shown great strength by doing this page. I know how difficult it must have been for you. You are in my thoughts.


KV said...

This took great courage to do a page on such a deeply hurtful subject. And you did it so well!

My mother also suffered from mental illness which made our growing up a strange mixture of experiences.

Much love to you,

Kathy V in NM

dot said...

Grace, what a very honest look at something that affects so many of us. My husband's Mother suffered for so many years before modern pharmacy came up with drugs now days that could have helped her so much. He told me that she was in & out of institutions when he was small & the most frightening moment was when she came home after getting electro shock & didn't recognize him. All the years he couldn't understand why she did this or that. Not until we are grown up & see that blue Monster stalking us can we see all the pain our parents had gone through. You are so brave. Thank you for this piece of your past.


madness said...

Incredible page, incredible story. Thank you for sharing.
pam T (WI)

a2susan said...

Your piece is beyond words, it speaks to the heart. Thank you. Susan

beadbabe49 said...

What a loving tribute to your beautiful mom...and what an awesome piece.

Brenda said...

I may be the minority but I believe our loved ones check in on us from time to time. I feel she has heard your every wish.
So beautiful.

freebird said...

You made me cry. For the children and the parents who suffer in these situations.
My brother-in-law killed himself about a year ago and did it thinking he was "getting" his son and wife; it was the ultimate (in his strange view) power play. So much sadness and misunderstanding.

I feel like Brenda. I am quite certain you mother is enjoying her grandchildren and is quite proud of you. Energy does not disappear and God made us out of it. Therefore we can be transformed but we do not go away (That's the scientific part of the spiritual). I hope you felt an upsurge of acceptance and healing working on this project.

girl_gone_thread_wild said...

this post and your art piece is so emotionally raw. a real chunk of YOUrself is exposed and I wanted to let you know that beauty is written here in your words... I actually shut my eyes when reading the line that said it all. Exquisite detail shots, makes me feel I am seeing your mother right here in your work. I know this was a difficult page to share. Art really is an instructor when we need to learn a lesson, a mentor when we need to lean. Way to work through these issues. I'm very proud of you for revealing yourself to the core here. i tell you if ever i wished i could grant's now. -Monica

SueU said...

Grace, your tribute to your Mother is very kind, thoughtful,and genuion. A tough job very well done.

CC said...

Oh, dear Grace! All I can say is I wish for you are so open with your heart. You, & your work, are an inspiration to all of us.

Kiwi Ellen said...

Grace, what a beautiful page - such a wonderful tribute to a dearly loved Mother, my heart goes out to you - I imagine you shed more than a few tears as you stitched this one

Gypsy said...

I can see your Mother's happy features, in your eyes, the shape of your mouth and chin, and in your love of beauty. While hers was music, and yours more physically tangible, they are one and the same- a way to reach out.
This, you have done so well, Grace. I know your Mother is smiling.

quiltmom said...

What a beautiful name you have(It was also my grandmother's name)- Your name seems to suit you as you gracefully and courageously spoke and created something beautiful to honor your mother's memory.
It is wonderful that you can celebrate your mother and her gifts.
It is a truly lovely tribute to her.
thanks for sharing,

Pocket Full of Prettys said...

Grace your mother was beautiful, just as the piece of art that you created for her memory. Thanks for sharing you hearts thoughts. Hugs***Renea

Hélène H said...

My mum has had several bouts of mental illness but her doctor found the right medecine for her and she's doing fine now. Therefore I relate strongly to your wishes.

I think it's very courageous of you to do a piece on this sensitive subject. Your mum does look very beautiful, as your piece, who is a great tribute.

Hugs, Hélène

Kathy Wagner said...

Amazing, as always, Grace! You are truly remarkable! This piece is so moving and your writing so beautiful. Thank you for sharing so much in terms of the inspiration and story, and the detailed photos of this journal piece.

Maggie R said...

Dear Grace,
What a beautiful talented Mother you had and what a beautiful tribute to her. You certainly did have a lot of courage to share your inner thoughts. I know what you feel as my Mother had problems too. She seemed fine when I was growing up but after I was married and lived so far away she seemed to have breakdowns.She spent the best years of her life in and out of institutions. It breaks my heart to think of the shock treatments she had and her struggles. I would come home to spend time with her when I could but having 4 children and a husband to look after made it difficult. The arrivals were always joyous but the goodbyes were horrible as she never wanted me to go. My heart aches when I remember. My eyes are too blurry to go on here but know you are in my thoughts and I pray you will always be able to do the beautiful work you do now.
God Bless with Love,

Sue K (Lolo's Child) said...

What an incredible entry, Grace, thank you so much for sharing it. I think it's an incredible tribute to both your parents - just look at the beautiful person you are. Do you know, the entire entry moved me, but the line I loved the most? It was the line that most people in your neighborhood went through trials & tribulations. That's my youth, too, and I kind of miss that "we're all in this thing called life together" feeling.
Thank you once again for a beautiful piece.

Clevelandgirlie said...

Dear Grace - what a wonderful daughter you are to honor and acknowledge your mother in such a special and loving way. It's our imperfections that make us special and unique. BOTH your parents sound like very special and unique people who loved you (and life) very much. Thank you -- for sharing this touching story.

Julie said...

What a beautiful piece to honor your mom. I am glad you can find something beautiful in such a sad story. I know she is proud of you.

Pocket Full of Prettys said...

Hi Grace, wanted to let you know that I gave you 2 awards, go to my site & check it out. Congrats! Hugs***Renea

girl_gone_thread_wild said...

hey Grace, your gorgeous, BEAUTIFUL beaded squares are posted, my!!! these bloo me away chica! xo, Monica

GardenGoose said...

what a lovely piece of artwork as tribute to your mom. your mom was very pretty and from the image of you in your two look alot alike.took alot of courage on your part to write so candidly of a topic that is difficult for most even now to address...that of mental illness and suicide.
hugs to you.

Anonymous said...

WOW Grace!

Your story and your beaded page is remarkable. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Mental illness has touched my family as well. One cousin did commit suicide and her sister attempted but luckily for us survived.

Such a strong piece of art.

Beadily yours
Susan Feldkamp
Night Beader

3rdEyeMuse said...

such an honest and thoughtful post - your words touched my heart. the page is absolutely spectacular, too.

thank you.

with a warm embrace & many thanks, ~M~

3rdEyeMuse said...

ps - the details are exquisite! how many hours of yourself was stitched into this?

Dot said...

Grace - this is a incredible tribute to your mum. And very brave too.

I send much love to you and your dear mum. I hope she is in peace now.

Much love

Dot xx

urepanse said...

I read your words and the posts again, again and again.And bring them into my days.I'm so sorry, but I can't say nothing wise.To see such sorrow and pain...
Thank you for sharing this.Your work can open the hearts and a little changed my life. (I was Andersen's "ugly duck" in my family.)

Robin said...

Oh Grace, you are so full of grace... your heart is open... the stark reality of loosing your parents is so apparent in your work...

How do you feel now that you've done this piece and written about your life and shared your wishes? Has anything changed in the way you experience yourself in this world?

Obviously you have given a significant gift to all of us... you have shown us how meaningful and important this work can be. Thank you and bless you...

Robin A.

PS I agree with Brenda. Have you considered writing your wishes on the back of your piece?

Betzie said...

This piece is just amazing and I loved all your wishes. I wish I could wave a magic wand for you so they could all come true. Still, you have been very brave to share all of this and your mom would be so proud of you and of this art work as well.

Katherine said...

Thank you, my stepson/daughter died of acute pneumonia a little over a year ago at the age of 32. He was mentally ill and lived with us. He was a very talented, intelligent, confused and frightened person. Although he didn't commit suicide, it was really his mental illness and all the medications that killed him. He probably couldn't tell how sick he was and ask for help even though we were right there in the same house with him.

Joy said...

A very beautiful and bittersweet tribute to both your parents. Thank you for directing me to this post.

Leaves of Grass

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body - Walt Whitman