Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher

The spaces between


I spent the weekend in my studio.

I am content.

It was a great way to spend a rainy Saturday and even though yesterday the sun snuck out from behind grey clouds, I couldn’t stop what I was doing. I was immersed in the process and having too much fun! Plus, I was using the collage technique I learned at Jonathan Talbot’s workshop — and what can be more fun than using new knowledge to create?

August 30th is my mother’s 92nd birthday. I would like to say that she is strong and happy and doing well, but that would not be true. Her mind is sharp as a tack but her body is frail and fragile and failing. Quickly.

Other than arthritis, and the fact of age, there is no medical cause for her faltering well-being. It is more an ennui born of everyday sadness, losses she has never been able to comprehend, and the fact she has basically stopped eating.

My mother is sad and neither my sisters nor I are powerful enough to lift the sadness that envelops her.

Which is why I spent the weekend creating something I hope will put a smile on her heart and give her some happiness.

Like mother’s everywhere, my mother loves to show off her family. To tell people of what her children and grandchildren are doing, to demonstrate how accomplished in the world we all are, how our lives have turned out well.

In the past, I created a shadow box of her life. It hangs on the wall of her room which means, she can’t carry it with her. S0 this weekend, I created an accordion book of  her life. Something small and compact that she can put in the basket of her walker and can carry with her where ever she goes if she chooses.

And here’s the thing. In putting photos of her brother’s and sisters, parents, as well as my sisters and brother, I had to decide whether or not to include photos of my nieces, my brother’s daughters. I wanted to. She loves them dearly, but since my brother and his wife’s death in 1997 there has been little to no contact between my mother and her granddaughters. Eighteen and nineteen at the time of their parents’ passing, my nieces were in no shape to comprehend my mother’s grief at the death of her only son. And my mother was not emotionally strong enough to put aside her tears to be able to help them through theirs.

A gap appeared between them. Over the years, it has turned into an abyss and for my mother, that abyss is a deep dark wound of loss and grief and sorrow.

Do I or don’t I include their photos? I asked both my sisters.

We all agreed that to do so would only cause our mother pain. She cannot talk of her two lost grand-daughters without crying and if there is one thing my mother doesn’t need more of in her life, it’s tears.

And so, I left out these two beautiful young women who are part of the warp and weave of our family.

I didn’t want to. I am not particularly good at ‘pretending’ something isn’t what it is. They are part of our family and to leave them out doesn’t change that fact.

I’m also a realist.

To include their photos in a book she will want to show everyone will only leave her open to having to talk about her grand-daughters with whom she has no contact. And that will make her cry.

It was the loving thing to do for my mother and the right thing to do for her heart.



Author: Louise Gallagher

I believe in wonder. I believe we are all magnificent beings of divine beauty. I believe we can make a difference in this world, through every act, word, thought. I believe we create ripples with everything we do and say and want to inspire everyone to use their ripple to create a better world for everyone. I'm grateful you're here.

17 thoughts on “The spaces between

  1. I love your kind, giving, gentle heart! ❤


  2. LG,

    Great gesture/solution …

    I find my thoughts on the opposite side of that question-divide.

    Who are you protecting by leaving them out?

    If you include them – tears aside, might you give your mother one last opportunity to deal with that/them, one last opportunity to make piece with that void?

    Here’s a thought – take it or leave it – but maybe you could ask your mother. Ask her ‘would you like their pictures included?’ or left out? It’s just a folding box – with plenty of room for two more pictures …



  3. Louise,
    I did that for my mom via shutterfly. I think that it was probably her favotire gift that I gave her. It was fun because it comes to you like a shiney golden book like when we were kids. I made it into a little story, puting my real dad first and my step dad as the… And they lived happily ever after… cuz they really have a great love story. She seems to carry it around in spurts. It was weird, last Christmas I tried to write the beginning of a manuscript for her. She wanted to write her story. I started to read it to her and she was fast asleep. lol. I think the smaller version was better.
    Anyway, I can’t wait to hear how she loves it! It is beautiful. And I think you did the right thing, only including the happy memories. Everyone who knows about those missing holes will understand.
    I have been working on my book. I wish I was doing it on a rainey day. As our lake where I live, is almost completely dried up!
    I saw that you forgot to title this one before you pushed send (I hate when I do that! lol.) And I was just curious whose post this was.
    Soooo good that I stopped to see and it was yours! I have been making myself not read too much so that I can keep working on my project. Seems as if I can spend all day her if I’m not careful! 😉


    • How lovely to hear from you Di — and seriously… the lake is almost dried up? How sad! And scary I’m sure.

      I’m glad to hear you’re working on your book — and thank you for letting me know I forgot to name the post — I do that sometimes when I’m lost in thought.

      I’m glad your mom liked her book. I know my mother will love it, she is very sentimental — and more importantly, it is a gift from my heart which is what matters most to me.

      Much love to you my friend! Keep writing!!!! 🙂


      • I meant to go back and tell you how amazing your gift looks! You are such an artist! It is that perfect gift. You just know. Ya know? Can’t wait to hear her reaction!


  4. You truly are a beautiful soul. xo


  5. What a lovely present to give her. I hope that she loves it.
    How sad about your nieces. you told me about them before.
    Do they have contact with their mother’s family?
    how sad for them that they lost their Mum and Dad and now they have lost contact with the rest of their family.
    It must have been so hard for them.


    • Unfortunately, they have limited contact with any family — it is sad and yes, I think it was very hard for them.

      I gave it to her yesterday Elizabeth — she loves it and I asked her if she wants me to include my nieces photos — and she said yes, but after her birthday — first she wants to show off the book as it is. 🙂


  6. What a lovely gift for your mother. I feel your pain in not being able to remove your mother’s sadness. I have a sad mother too.


  7. Its a thoughtful loving gift.
    When we ask those closest to us for their thoughts, they will usually conform to what is easier.
    You, like me have transcended much of our past. I would give her 2 books. (or the option of adding the other photos) One a public celebration to show to others, and the other one as private memories for her to cherish in her own time. Coming to terms with her loss is likely to be an important step for her final letting go.
    Val x


    • Hello Val — my eldest sister and I decided giving it to her early might be a good incentive for her to see she has value, is wanted and makes a difference. So I went and noon and gave it to her and she was delighted. I asked her if she wanted me to include my nieces photos and she said, “They are my granddaughters and I do love them…” and she thought about it and said, “Yes.” And then she asked me to leave the card with her though, and I can do it after her birthday. 🙂


  8. You have such a gentle and kind heart


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