During the year I throw ticket stubs, photos, brochures and whatever kind of mementos I may pick up along the way into a box in my office. At the end of each year I go through the box along with my journal to review where I’ve been, what I’ve done and what things have happened. Then I create a scrapbook. I started this habit about six years ago after a trip to France and it’s proven to be a worthwhile exercise in many ways.
This year’s review had a lot of obituaries. In fact, another one was added on December 29th when a college friend passed away. Well meaning friends keep telling me 2016 will be better than last year and that it can’t get worse, but of course that is nonsense. Pain and misfortune do not follow a calendar and it certainly can get worse.
However, I’m hopeful that things will get better somehow. While the friends and family I’ve lost won’t come back, the Artmobile is still totaled, and I’m a year older (I won’t get that time back), still I keep hope. Hope that I will grow from the losses, hope that I still have a future, and hope that I won’t just be older but wiser as well. I’ve been pondering a meme on Facebook that said in effect “I’m not the same person I was at the beginning of the year” indicating growth and depth through a year's experiences. I'm not so sure I can make the same claim.
When my mother died, I spent time pondering about how I’d changed during the seven years I looked after her. I couldn’t put my finger on when the changes had occurred, but I was not the same person. I had developed more depth and compassion…more patience and more faith. I can’t say that this year of loss has wrought any great or small changes in me. I’ve barely had time to begin to process one grief when another came my way. Wave after wave of loss – wave after wave of grief. Rather than grow, I seem to have shut down a bit. I suppose I had to in order to weather the storms and continue to see after the needs of my in-laws.
But it’s time to stop withdrawing and time to try to step forward again. Time to get into the studio. Time to try to start writing again. Time to breathe and take a step forward.
While I know I’m a bit late in saying this, Happy New Year.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.