It is a strange and bittersweet day. Twenty years ago today my mom died. She was forty-eight years old. I was also twenty years old. It's a very odd feeling to know that she's been dead for half of my life. She never saw me draw, she never met my wife , and she never met Rowen. She never had a chance to do many things with her life; mental illness, the events of her own childhood, plus crushing money issues (bankruptcy and welfare) were a devastating combination. She fought pretty hard and she fought with a great deal of courage, something that most people who knew her (family, my father, others) didn't understand.
I will always be deeply sad that I never got to know her as an adult. And I will always be deeply sad that she never had a chance to live a healthy, normal life. While there is great deal of beauty in this world, there is also a great deal of injustice, cruelty, bad luck, and plain unfairness. She experienced all of that and I think it wounded her on a very deep level. And made the mental illness she was dealing with that much harder to cope with. She deserved far better breaks.
We, as human beings, have a long way to go on the empathy front. I think empathy, both on an individual level but also on an institutional one, would have helped my mom a great deal. Fundamentally, she fought a lot of battles alone; I don't know if the end result would have been that much different if she had experienced more empathy and compassion, but it's hard to imagine that it wouldn't have helped her, giving her a stronger foundation from which to fight. And maybe --maybe-- helped bring some joy in her life. That's one of the things I find extremely sad about her life; there wasn't much joy in it, especially in her final years.
Here's to you, mom. I will miss you forever.
MORTALITY, or OH! WHY SHOULD THE SPIRIT OF MORTAL BE PROUD
by William Knox (1789-1825)
Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
Man passeth from life to his rest in the grave.
The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around, and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high
Shall molder to dust and together shall lie.
The infant a mother attended and loved;
The mother that infant's affection who proved;
The husband that mother and infant who blessed,-- Each, all, are away to their dwellings of rest.
The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Shone beauty and pleasure, - her triumphs are by;
And the memory of those who loved her and praised
Are alike from the minds of the living erased.
The hand of the king that the sceptre hath borne;
The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn;
The eye of the sage, and the heart of the brave,
Are hidden and lost in the depth of the grave.
The peasant whose lot was to sow and to reap;
The herdsman who climbed with his goats up the steep;
The beggar who wandered in search of his bread,
Have faded away like the grass that we tread.
The saint who enjoyed the communion of heaven;
The sinner who dared to remain unforgiven;
The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,
Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.
So the multitude goes, like the flowers or the weed
That withers away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes, even those we behold,
To repeat every tale that has often been told.
For we are the same our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen;
We drink the same stream, and view the same sun,
And run the same course our fathers have run.
The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think;
From the death we are shrinking our fathers would shrink;
To the life we are clinging they also would cling;
But it speeds for us all, like a bird on the wing.
They loved, but the story we cannot unfold;
The scorned, but the heart of the haughty is cold;
They grieved, but no wail from their slumbers will come;
They joyed, but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.
They died, aye! they died; and we things that are now,
Who walk on the turf that lies over their brow,
Who make in their dwelling a transient abode,
Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road.
Yea! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
We mingle together in sunshine and rain;
And the smiles and the tears, the song and the dirge,
Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.
'Tis the wink of an eye, 'tis the draught of a breath,
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud,
Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?