Last Friday, towards the end of my month long self-imposed ban on social media (which I have not been very good at adhering to). I saw a dramatically written little square which caught my attention and thinking space. Grief. Weeping and outpouring. Someone had died.
Widow, 2017 Rudimentary Collection. Sam Shendi
There were several posts about this apparent icon. Anthony Bourdain. I had never heard of him. Ignorant or not, whichever camp you are in. I had to look him up on the internet. A Chef. Some of the images and comments about him made me think of my husband in certain ways. The life experience and the stories. I hadn’t heard of his books or seen any of his TV shows. I wondered fleetingly, why there was such an outpouring of despair over one man whom people probably hadn’t even met, when thousands are killed, bombed, persecuted everyday.
There is often that collective overwhelming emotion when something tragic happens, shock, confusion, empathy and probably a whole host of other sentiments. A sudden awareness that life is fragile and nothing is permanent. If we can focus on being mindful in the moment and grateful, the more we can appreciate those precious moments and find the true meaning of being happy.
That very same Friday afternoon I found out my son’s year six teacher was leaving the school. I was shocked and saddened that my youngest son wouldn’t get the golden nuggets of teaching my eldest has received. Preparing him for secondary school with confidence, self belief and optimism. Whilst I know and I am sure there are lots of good teachers, some people are just irreplaceable. I also felt deeply dissapointed that my youngest sport-loving boy wouldn’t have this amazingly sporty teacher. Despite that, it’s a couple of years before my son would have been in her class and who knows what will happen between now and then. We could even move- who knows what can happen in that space of time. I related my strong and almost violent emotion about this news to what I had been reading that morning. I really had to try and sit with my feelings and find out why I was so emotional. It was almost parallel, so who was I to judge someone else’s overt emotion. I was feeling the same and it wasn’t even death.
This piece entitled, ‘Widow’ captures grief. It suggests the female form and there is a strong femininity about the piece. For me it is my favourite of the Rudimentary collection. When I see this piece I am reminded of a friend, not only because she is a widow but because of a memory I have from when we were young. We were canoeing on the canal and a swan, protecting her nest swam up to my friend and started pecking at her. No matter how frantic and aggressive swans can be there is an elegance, tranquility and beauty about the swan. The arch of the neck hangs down in a graceful sorrow. In mythology the swan was sacred to Venus, goddess of love. Death is all the more tragic because of love. When we love something it is hard to let it go.
Departure is very different from death but perhaps a grief still the same. Yet change is enevitable and very much a part of life. In the end everything comes to an end.
Who was Anthony Bourdain? I didn’t know him but I think when someone dies, suddenly, tragically, at a point in time where we had pressumed no expectation of that passing away, it is wake up call to and/or for ourselves. A realisation and a reminder that we don’t know when we will take our last breath. It is a journey, actually the only certain one, one which we are most often ill prepared for.
When striving for success in a career in this earthly domain it can come at a cost. It seems it did for Bourdain. It often does for artists and I know it is often a struggle for my husband who sacrifices a lot for time in the studio. A creative life doesn’t exist in a straight line and there is a risk of the unknown. Jamie Aaron states in his 11 things highly creative people sacrifice for their art, “They sacrifice the life people told them they should have for a life they love, a life that is inspiring and thrilling. Because that’s the whole point. To create is a privilege, one that artists know not to take for granted. To deny a conventional life is a risk, but not as great a risk as to deny their heart.”
Serendipitously we watched Disney’s ‘Coco’ last night after a month of not watching television (we were a bit more successful at that abstention). The story was about the inhabitants of the land of dead, the unseen world depicted gloriously in this animation, being able to pass back over into the land of living for one day, if they have been remembered by tributes. The main character has to question ‘what form of legacy matters the most and whether our personal ambitions can successfully coexist alongside our commitment to loved ones’. The main song gives a message of how important it is to remember those that have passed away.
“Remember me, though I have to say goodbye
Remember me, don’t let it make you cry
For even if I’m far away, I hold you in my heart
I sing a secret song to you each night we are apart
Remember me, though I have to travel far
Remember me, each time you hear a sad guitar
Know that I’m with you the only way that I can be
Until you’re in my arms again, remember me
Remember me, for I will soon be gone
Remember me, and let the love we have live on
And know that I’m with you the only way that I can be
So, until you’re in my arms again, remember me”
Life is a spiritual experience by the very nature of being conscious, by being aware. The sculptor’s work often explores the idea that the body is simply a vessel. We are essentially souls experiencing the world through the body. But the soul is unseen. So perhaps death is simply the end of the body in this world. The soul returns.
“For life and death are one, even as the river and sea are one.” Kahlil Gibran