One week after my dad died at age 89, I started an oil painting. I've been an artist my whole life and have reasonable skill. The last few years have been focused on making a living, and painting took a back seat. This last week of grief and hard truths has brought some new perspectives. Who will remember me when I'm gone? What will I leave behind? What have I done to deserve being remembered? What expresses my deepest self?
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the Little House on the Prairie series after her father, mother, and sister Mary had all died. Wilder was in her 50's when she began the stories. One of her biographies noted that loss turned her inward, remembering. Wilder's recollection of life in the late 1800's is valuable for descriptions of a way of life which has passed. But it is beloved because it recounts love: Ma and Pa's love for each other, their love for their children, the family for each other.
Any need to put feelings out in the world, in words or music or pictures, is from the same place. I have lived experiences which my children might benefit from. I can chronicle a time and a place so others will know, and tell a story so others will remember. Because if we remember, as Tim O'Brien notes in The Things They Carried, story keeps us alive.
The potential painting is of Mom, in her 80's, under an apple tree from their farm. Its working title is Things My Mother Gave Me. I'll post it when its done.