Last night was our local support group’s trivia night. I’m on the fringe of the planning committee, which means I volunteered to help last year and didn’t fulfill many of my commitments (which, in my defense, during this time period I was either living in the Maternity Trauma Center or adjusting to parenting a living baby, a reality I hadn’t considered pre-July 27), and this year I (with Mark’s help) brought in a couple of corporate sponsorships and auction items (okay, this was mostly Mark) and helped minimally with set up. So, I’m trending in the right direction, it seems, albeit slowly…
But ANYWAY, it was an absolutely beautiful night that raised almost $17,000 for the hospital to support local bereaved families, and I’m proud of even my most miniscule contribution to it and also proud to be associated with such amazing men and women who I wish I could have come to know in ANY OTHER WAY. (Like seriously, I will never, ever understand how such an awful tragedy can happen to some of the best humans I’ve ever met – yet another illustration of the brutal unfairness of this life.)
Because I never have my act together (and because tables sold out so fast!), I didn’t purchase a table on time, but then one became available, so I purchased it from the original holder, and then Mark and I had to find some people to fill it, so Mark and I decided to play trivia, my parents ended up driving in from out of town for it, and Mark’s aunt (who works in the hospital’s NICU) and uncle played, and one of my most supportive friends and her husband also joined. (SIDE NOTE – We were super thankful and surprised we could fill our table seeing how we have like four friends who weren’t either volunteering or already participating with their own tables, and by today’s standards four isn’t a large number, but as one of these four pointed out, “All of your remaining friends are FANTASTIC people!!” to which I wholeheartedly agreed. #qualityoverquantity)
Our table scored an impressive 88 out of 100, but the winning table scored 96 out of 100 – wommmp, wommmp. The majority of the questions were answered by two or three individuals at our table, but everyone made contributions. There was one round entitled “logos and slogans,” and we couldn’t figure out the answer to, “Is it in you?” so we answered Trojan (which in hindsight doesn’t totally make sense), but I guess the correct answer was Gatorade. #socloseyetsofar
Along with trivia, there was a silent auction and a raffle with some great prizes. Almost immediately upon entering the room, this watercolor painting in the silent auction caught my eye. The painting was of a beautiful mama bird spreading her wings over three baby birds. The sight of it reduced me to tears. One of the birds was blue, so I considered this one to be my blue jay, Matthew, and then the two other birds represented Joel and Finch in my mind, and then there was also a Matthew bible verse on the painting, so I figured it was destined to be mine, and I bid on it ALL NIGHT with the help of Mark and my mom, against this other bereaved mother who I loosely know from support group.
I was 100 percent certain one of us (Mark, my mom, or I) would win it, especially considering Mark and my mom’s spending habits and affinity for consumer products, but at the last second, this other mother must have been hovering, and she outbid my mom by $40 and won it. It obviously meant something to her too, so I’m glad for her, but I’m sad for me, and I wonder whether, for the rest of my life, each time I see her, I’ll be thinking, “You took my picture.” Not that it was ever mine, but in my heart, I had already won it, which is my fault, but STILL.
However, little did I know that my dad put almost all his tickets into one raffle box – the box for another painting. Well, he ended up winning this painting and so thoughtfully and generously gifted it to me, and I love it, and it’s now hanging over my reading area in my master bedroom.
The image is both striking and devastating, which made it extra annoying when both Mark and my mom asked, “So what is this supposed to be?” Because even though I’m a very literal person, I quickly saw so much meaning in it.
When I look at this picture, I see two lives lost, in two different ways.
The woman in the present is holding a candle with a heart shaped glow. She’s obviously remembering her baby who didn’t make it. The shadow indicates she was once anxiously awaiting him, and then he died unexpectedly. She carries him in her heart now. She’ll carry this torch with her too… To remember him by, to ensure his legacy isn’t forgotten.
I also see the death of this woman, or the person she used to be – the one depicted in the shadow. I look at this woman in the present and see myself currently, and I look at her shadow, and I’m reminded that, just like she, a different version of me existed back then too. Matthew was also alive then in physical form – sometimes it’s easy to forget, because his life was so short, and because so many memories have been repressed. But before he died, he lived.
The woman in the present and her shadow represent the same person, but they are also two totally different people. In one sense, the shadow died with her baby. This person depicted in the shadow is never coming back. Yet she existed, and this is important. But she’s always there too, lurking behind the curtain, so to speak, but she’s separated by this gulf of trauma and pain that’s too vast for anyone, let alone her, to ever cross. Or maybe if it’s crossed, it’s rarely. So, there she remains, mostly inaccessible, existing only in the shadows, a painful memory of a two lives lived not very long ago but an eternity ago too.
A reminder of all that should have been and isn’t. A reminder of so much potential lost. A reminder that in the face of devastation we carry on too, with a torch shining bright with our love and their memories.
(DISCLAIMER – So I’m an accountant, attempting to analyze art… Late at night. Go easy on me. #notinmywheelhouse)