Less than two weeks after I arrived back in Brisbane she died. Seeing someone you love suffer is horrific and being far away, on the other side of the world, is terrible during such times.
My father and brother cared for her over the past years, they stayed close and surrounded her with love. And I spend many hours on the phone with Mama wishing I was closer.
Here I'd like to share one of the ways I have tried to ease my grief and which at times made me feel very close to her.
My father chose this beautiful photo of my mother which he took while they were on their first holiday by themselves in Paris. I think they were 17 or 18. My father chose this photo as the cover of the funeral notice and the funeral service booklet.
Here is what Mama had to say about the time the photo was taken:
In 1966 gingen papa en ik voor het eerst naar Parijs samen. Want mama vroeg ‘Jullie gaan toch wel op vakantie, he?’ Wel op een aparte kamer, waar ik 's ochtends net deed of mijn bed gebruikt was. Er waren wel waarschuwingen van the voren: "jullie gaan met ze tweeen weg, jullie komen ook met zijn tween terug!"
In 1966 your Dad and I went to Paris together for the first time. Because Mum asked 'Are you guys going on holiday?' We did stay in a separate room where I would pretend that that the bed was used in the mornings. We did get warnings before we left: 'It is the two of you leaving, and make sure it is the two of you that will return!'
When I got home from the funeral a few weeks later I drew that picture, over and over. It wouldn’t let me go. Then I started drawing my mother as a toddler, in middle age and on her wedding day. Next I carved and printed these images through my current medium of choice, lino prints.
While I was studying her face closely for each drawing, I imaged what her thoughts may have been at the time the photo was taken, I tried to see the world through her eyes and it made me feel close.
Here are some of the images and the photos they were based on.