After a three-week hiatus from art and American mod-cons (all stores closed on January 1 and 2!), during which my brother, my husband and I started to sort through the artifacts of a life that lasted almost 99 years, I embrace this new life of mine, a life without mother–that is, in her usual, familiar, physical form. Maman is still here, very much so, most often perched on my left shoulder, smiling and nodding. Every once in a while, I tap my shoulder and say: Salut, maman!
The time spent in Switzerland was far from gloomy; as a matter of fact, it was magical, in the best sense of the word. This was, of course, orchestrated by maman. She prepared the terrain for family and friends to reconnect, recollect, and reflect. And so we did. Our days centered around the opening hours at the local dump. The items that weren’t discarded were separated according to their destination: Salvation Army, recycling bin, antique dealer, removal company, etc. All this lifting and lugging made us hungry, and every day the kitchen transformed itself into a hotbed of culinary activity, followed by the ritual of drinking rich espresso while nibbling on pastries. Later in the evening, we leafed through old photo albums, amused by our ancestors’ fancy clothes and serious mien, and unearthed letters written by my grandmother on how to keep a man.
For three weeks, I lived in a parallel universe. Straddling the past and the present, contemplating the future, assailed by fast-moving, confusing images in my dreams. The French have a good word for it: dépaysement. It’s what happens to you when you are removed from your usual surroundings. I was in a different land, almost another dimension. I had tasted eternity, that lull between milestones, the benchmarks we use to keep us moving forward, believing that life’s path is linear.
I never could have predicted that I would be philosophical about my mother’s passing, but there we are: I have lost a physical presence, yet my gain is greater than my loss. In time, I will be able to express it more eloquently.