The Hunt (an Easter musing)

It is kind of hard to ignore that Easter is soon upon us. I’ve always been mindful of how strange it is to be the minority faith in America, even though I’m part of the majority. My closest friends were Hindu or Jewish while I was in school, and I still remember how awkward it was that the principal would say a Jesus-centric prayer at every football game at our public (meaning not private, thus not religious) high school football games.

It seems so strange that non-religious organizations such as grocery stores and pharmacies and craft supply shops will have displays for every Christian holiday but totally ignore the fact that there are people who have other festivals and observances who live in the same community. I think it is best to have all, or none.

But I digress.

I saw a sign at the local grocery store saying “The Hunt is On” over a huge display of Easter candy. The hunt? Oh right. Easter eggs. Hidden. And you go find them.

Plenty of people say that Easter is a pagan holiday, that the Christians simply adopted the celebration of Ostara as their own. They say that to celebrate Easter is to worship a false god (or goddess). Maybe this is true. It bears further research.

But, it seems backwards, this entire idea of us hunting for eggs.

We aren’t the ones who do the seeking. God is.

God is the one who seeks us.
God is the father to the prodigal son.
God is the one who goes to find the lost sheep.
God is the one who seeks the lost coin.
God puts everything aside to find us, to gather us up like a hen shelters her chicks.
God is the one who heals us.

We are the eggs, hidden, lost, confused, ashamed.
God finds us, brings us out into the light.

Notice how beautiful hand painted Easter eggs are. Each one is different and special. That is how God sees us.

Traditional-Easter-eggs-008

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Nobody told me about death

It was such a surreal time when my mom was dying. Nothing in my life had prepared before it, and nobody helped me through it. It was strange for her to, of course, so she was not able to help. The person I had always looked to for guidance was looking to me for strength.

The hospice social worker read off a set list questions – “What do you want to do?” “What life goals have you not achieved?” I guess the idea was to try to do some of these things before she died. It all seemed cruel and thoughtless. She couldn’t do these things – not enough energy anymore, or time. Visit England, her birthplace? Not possible. See me graduate / get married / be an adult? Not possible. 53 is a young death, and all preventable. She signed her death certificate the day she started smoking. She tried to quit but didn’t stick with it for many reasons. Something stressful would happen. She was bored. Dad wouldn’t quit.

Milton suggested that Adam ate the apple because Eve had, and he didn’t want her to be alone in being banished from the garden. He sacrificed his own happiness to be with her, to support her. Is this part of it? Or was it just a simple ugly habit, an addiction?

Near the end hospice sent over an aide they’d hired from a home healthcare company. She was a skinny black woman of limited education. She browsed our bookshelves and pointed out those that she felt were expensive. They weren’t – we often found large hardback photo books on the remainder table for under $10. We collected them and savored them, as the library in our city was small, and far away. After she said this I felt obliged to stay in the room with her all the time, which defeated the purpose of having her there. The point was to have a trained person with my Mom so I could go get errands done, or simply have some time off from the endless task of tending her by myself.

The aide also wanted to use Vaseline to swab my Mom’s mouth, saying that dying people’s mouths get dry. They do, but Vaseline isn’t the answer. That is weird. “Would you want Vaseline in your mouth?” I asked her. No answer. She couldn’t empathize.

She also had a bit of note paper in a folder she brought in. She’d written “The devil is real” and “You’re going to die!!!” on it. I asked her about it. She said that sometimes the people she tended would “act up” and she’d shove this in their faces to quiet them. I called hospice and said she never needed to tend my mother or anyone else ever again. They said she was leaving that company to go tend people who were profoundly mentally and physically handicapped. I replied that “She does not need to be around anyone who cannot defend themselves”. They had no answer, it was out of their hands they said. She wasn’t hired by them, it was through another company.

Around the same time a lady named Bernice was there. She went to the Episcopal Church that Father Rainsford had visited at and preached. He used Mom’s story in a sermon. He did not ask if he could, but that is another story. Bernice felt moved by the story to ask if she could help since I was tending Mom all by myself. She helped watch the watcher and later went, by my suggestion, to get hoagies from Ankar’s. She’d never had them before. They are my family’s comfort food. Submarine sandwiches don’t even come close.

I remember how weird it was when Father Rainsford came over towards the end and did last rights. That made it really real. He called out the page in the Book of Common Prayer. I was one I’d never seen before, and I scanned the title of the section. It is page 462 if you are interested, and it is titled “Litany at the Time of Death”. I’d not asked him to do it, but he knew it was time. I wasn’t ready for it. She died maybe a week later. She’d not talked for a week before this, but chimed in when we recited the Lord’s Prayer.

People who are dying see things that others don’t. Mom asked about that man who was sitting there, pointing towards the couch. No man had been in the house for days at that point.

People who are dying do unusual things. She was picking at her bedclothes. She took all the Kleenex out of a box, one by one. She filled in random letters in the crossword puzzle she was working on. Late one night she had nightmares, visions. She was quite anxious, calling out. I could not calm her. I called hospice, who sent out a nurse who gave her more anti-anxiety medicine. He said that people tended to die the way they lived. Since Mom had smoked a cigarette every 20 minutes of her adult life, she was quite unable to calm herself without chemical intervention.

Months earlier she’d finally came to understand about my pot usage at the time. She refused to try it, afraid that the doctor would find out through blood tests. What would they do – arrest a dying woman? Refuse further treatment? If she had tried it she would have been happier, more at peace, better able to process her feelings. It takes the edge off, and it is hard to think when life is all edges and angles. Plus she might have not lost much weight since she would have been hungry, and pot is also an anti-emetic. The wasting away from throwing up from chemotherapy drugs is awful. The “cure” is sometimes worse than the disease. Surely there has to be a better way to heal than by putting poison into people’s veins. It makes no sense at all.

The neighbors provided food. The priest visited. Hospice nurses and volunteers came. It still wasn’t enough, and still none of them told me what to expect. Hospice provided a page of “things that might happen” but it wasn’t enough. I needed someone to sit down with me and let me know that this crazy event that was happening was normal, and here’s what to do and not do.

Nobody told me what to expect. Nobody counseled me. Nobody thought to care for or about me, the 25-year-old child, not yet an adult, he was tending her mother, her friend, her roommate, alone and without training. I would suspect it is just as hard to do this at 50, but at least then you’ve had a bit more life experience to call upon.

At the end my aunt came, even though we were against it because of letters that she had written my Dad, saying that Mom would be better off dead. There was no one else I could invite to stay over to help me. Friends left me. In spite of my years of church involvement, church members never showed. Did they know? This is one of the disadvantages of being in a large congregation.

If I was pregnant, for instance, I suspect that someone would tell me what to expect, how to handle this. There are books at least. But people don’t talk about death. It is the elephant in the room. Perhaps they don’t know what to say? Perhaps I appeared to be handling it so well that they thought I knew. It was a façade, a front. In the back behind the scenes, I was alone, made more so by the fact that my counselor, my support, my friend, my roommate was leaving me, fading away to nothing right before my eyes.

Signals and signs

Signal and sign1

What is message and what is mountain?
What is writing and what is river?
Is a road a word?
Is a map a manuscript?
Signal/noise
Unreferenced symbol
Un-received messages
Lost languages
The boundaries between mountain and lake are often the boundaries between cultures and countries.
Decay of transmission
There must be at least one who can understand for meaning to be transmitted.

Details –
Signals2
(middle)

signals3
(top left)

signals4
(bottom right)

Ingredients –
Bought ephemera – Asian map, page of Asian writing
Paint- olive green, manganese blue, white, mixed with water. Dabbed on mixed very lightly with a smished paint brush and wiped off with paper towel.
Gel pens, matte medium
Strathmore art journal

Created 2-11-16

Objects in life

Objects in life1 012916
Objects in life are closer than they appear.

Thoughts that arose while making it:
Scale is important. Compare this to this. Otherwise you are lost, even with a map.
Everything is relative. How do you indicate place when a part of the frame or reference is missing?
The edges are there but the middle is blank.
How little rivers look like lightning.
When lost, follow the river. You’ll find people. (Are they good? Is this safe?)

Ingredients:
8.5 x 12 inch Strathmore visual journal
Matte medium, glue stick.
Map. Card stock. Distress Ink (rusty hinge pad, crushed olive spray)
Gel pen. Art paper (K and Company designer paper by Susan Winget)
Created 1/29/16.

Lost and found

Lost and found1 012816

detail
Lost and found2

Praying the Lord’s Prayer at McDonalds.
A man who was lost/homeless/mentally ill/addicted/blind (any or all)

I went to McDonald’s to get “second breakfast” after attending mandatory substance abuse awareness training for my job (This class has to be taken every 5 years). This man outside the store asked for change.
I find it significant that panhandlers ask for change – not money. Change is what they need, true change.
I gave him money and said “God loves you.” He initiated the prayer. He held out his hand to me. It was grimy – grey/green. We held hands while we prayed the Lord’s Prayer together. It was beautiful. I remember my years of struggling with addiction and feeling lost.

Ingredients:

8.5 x 12 inch Strathmore visual journal

Map torn from a book, missing some of the reference points. Paper that reminds me of prison bars. Receipt. Matte medium. Distress ink spray (crushed olive)
Created 1/28/16

Search party

search party 012416
Full image

search party2 012416
Right side detail

search party3
Top left detail.

Created 1/24/16. Our scanner broke so there is a backlog and I’m posting a batch of them. The images were taken with my cell phone. The colors are an approximation – they are a little lighter and less intense in the original.

Thoughts that arose while making it:
Framed. Blood trail. Tracking through the woods in misty rain. Hair clues. Musical notes. Organized search party. Tracks crossing water, trail washed out. Switchbacks, doubling back, retracing steps.

Ingredients:
8.5 x 12 inch Strathmore visual journal
Card stock (Pacon watercolor)
Tissue paper
Deli paper
Matte medium
Watercolor
Loose hairs from watercolor brush
Map pieces
Glue stick.

Parable of the lost son

Jesus said “A father had two sons. The younger one said to him ‘Father, give me my inheritance now,’ and his father honored his request. Not long afterwards, that son took all of his belongings and traveled far away to another country, where he spent all he had living large. When he was penniless, a famine broke out there and he became needy. Then he found a job working for a local citizen who sent him to feed the pigs in his fields. He desperately wanted to eat even the seed pods that the pigs were eating but nobody would let him have any.

When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself ‘All of my father’s workers have plenty of food, and I’m starving to death because of this famine! I should get up and travel back to my father and say to him Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Please take me on as a hired hand.’ He then got up and started to walk back to his father. But while he was still very far away, his father saw him and was overcome with compassion. He ran to him and hugged and kissed him. The son said ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’

But the father called to his servants, saying ‘Hurry! Fetch the finest robe we have and put it on him; bring a ring and sandals and put those on him as well. Then slaughter the fattened calf and let’s have a feast of celebration, because my son was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and has been found.’ And thus the party began.

Meanwhile his older son was in the fields. When he approached the house he heard the sounds of music and dancing. He called one of the servants to him and asked what was going on. The servant said ‘Your brother is here, and your father had us slaughter the fattened calf to celebrate that he has safely returned.’

The older son then became very angry and didn’t want to go into the house. His father came outside to plead with him. But the son replied ‘Look I have worked many years for you and I’ve always obeyed your orders, yet you never even gave me a young goat so I could have a feast with my friends. But when this son of yours shows up, the one who threw away your money on prostitutes, you have the fattened calf slaughtered for him!?’

‘Son’, he said, ‘you have never left me and all I have is yours. But we had to rejoice and celebrate because your brother was dead and has returned to life; he was lost and is now found.'”

LK 15:11-32