I’ve been trying to find a witty or creative way to phrase my feelings about my mixed media collection, but all I can seem to think of is how much of a release it has been for me. I’ve struggled with my identity for most of my life. I grew up never knowing my father and falling into that stereotype of combative, jaded daughter with my mother. I was aloof and unable to connect parts of who I was to the people around me, but I found an almost magical kinship with my grandfather. He was the tempo that kept my life on track. A steady beat that I could always rely on and feel within the beating of my own heart when I was faced with uncertainty.
His passing caught me by surprise, but he was the kind of man who put others before himself and strived to see happiness in the people around him, no matter what it cost him. I feel that taking time to write about him has given me the chance to reflect on what he truly means to me rather than obsessing over the fact that physically he isn’t with me anymore. There isn’t anything anyone can do to stop death, but for the last three years, I’ve kept reliving those moments and trying to think of something I could have done.
I spent my last hour with him exhausted from work, thinking that I would just come back to the hospital next day, and then we would get to go home because nothing was seriously wrong with him. He had beaten cancer twice, lived through working years in an asbestos filled steel mill, broken both of his arms – at the same time!! He was made of stronger stuff and I believed he could fend off anything. I was living in a dream that there was nothing that would take him from me but the passage of time. The truth that he was dying, and he knew it. The days that followed his passing were like waking up in a world I could have never imagined.
It caused me to change my life in drastic ways. I quit my job and moved across the country, desperately trying to get away and start over. I’ve struggled to connect with my family members, because of my lingering anger. I was stuck in a mindset that being far away from my problem would fix things, but he was still there with me.
Loss is a difficult thing to navigate, and the one thing I’ve learned is that grieving is a process we all handle in our own ways. There is no right answer for how to process dramatic changes in your life, and there is nothing wrong with seeking help if you find yourself unable to handle it on your own. This collection is dedicated to everyone who has lost someone close to them and found themselves adrift. My words to you are take you time and try to be kind to yourself even in those moments where you feel hopeless.
You are loved, and the memories we carry with us of those we love will let their legacy live on within us.