Grieving is Unfinished Work

IMG_5395 (1) Man and baby

Water color portrait by Jacqueline Stubbs

Sometimes I have to write something for myself – about my Mom. I’ve been thinking a lot about her lately. Not that I don’t think about her throughout each day, because I do. I’m talking about the thoughts and questions that bring me to tears. The kind of boiling tears that make you walk around the house carrying tissues and not daring to put on mascara or go out because you’ll look like hell and start crying all over again when anyone asks how your day is going.

I’m not sure why I’ve been thinking so much about her this week. Maybe it’s because I just sold one of her paintings at the gallery. Or perhaps, because a friend sent me a photo of one of Mom’s pieces hanging in her home. Could it be those glances in the mirror? Those where the older you get the more you look like your parent? Or maybe it’s because I’m headed to visit her home town in a few days and will be seeing her side of the family for the first time since she passed away. Yeah, it’s probably the last one.

Specifically, I’ve been wondering why Mom had so much unfinished art work. She was a very prolific artist over several decades. Maybe its just an “artist’s thing” to have several pieces in various stages of completion. But I know that she never started or completed any art work after the day my Father died. It’s very mysterious. Several times, I have looked through her portfolios and inventory – always seeing something for the first time.

Who is this man and baby in the above painting? Who was it for? Was she still working on it? Although I found lots of art-work in Mom’s studio, she wasn’t a great record keeper. I’ll never know if it was one of her commissions or if she was just experimenting with figures. Why did she never sign this gorgeous display of flowers below? It sure looks done to me!

IMG_5393 (1) unfinished flowers

Water color iris by Jacqueline Stubbs

In addition to being a wonderful artist, my Mom was a very inclusive person. She never let race, religion, sexual orientation, addiction, social situation or a host of other potential biases get in her way. What I do know about my Mom, was that her completed work was a legacy of gently pushing against bias: she chose the black teenage girl down the street to babysit us over the white girl next door because she wanted someone more responsible; she had the gay man over for coffee every Wednesday because they both enjoyed talking about art over a strong cup of brew in the afternoons; and she hired the recovering alcoholic house painter who’d lost his driver’s license. She wasn’t the most confident driver, but sometimes picked him up herself. “He has such attention to detail and cleans up after himself!” These are things she did in the 60s and 70s and not because she was progressive. She was just who she was. Mom spent a long year and half in hospice care, the last few months bed ridden. She invited her caregivers to have treats with her, they watched trash TV together at night, she asked about their families, and she thanked them – quietly finishing the work of kindness and acceptance that we need so much in this world. My grief in ongoing, I miss you Mom.






13 thoughts on “Grieving is Unfinished Work

  1. “Grief is not a simple thing” – a line from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mystery.
    Simple isn’t it? It creeps up on us when we least expect it, sits around and keeps us company when we’d rather it go away and sometimes puts it’s arms around and comforts us as we cry…

    My mother-in-law was an artist too. Although unlike your mother, did not display nor sell her work, she was always the consummate student, learning new techniques. When she passed and we had to dispose of and distribute her belongings we found mountains of work that was semi-finished. Works that were finished but unsigned, works that were finished and signed and so forth…It happens.


  2. The best quote I ever read regarding grief:
    “Greif I’ve learned, is really just love. It is all the love you want to give but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”


  3. This was a powerful,moving post. Your mother was a special kind of person,the kind that you’re blessed with if you’re lucky. I got only a touch of her personality through this post and I’m affected greatly. I’ve always believed that the thing about grief is that it never ends; it has low and huge tides but it always ebbs and flows. This was a beautiful read,Tracey.❤

    Liked by 1 person

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