My mother prayed. A lot. No matter the time of day, situation, pressing need, she would pray.
After she passed away, my sisters and I sorted through her belongings and came across the leather pouch where she stored her many prayer cards.
None of us knew what to do with them so I took them, thinking I’d eventually use them in an art piece.
That time has come.
On Tuesday, I started a mixed media online course with Orly Avineri. Orly is my kind of creative force. Free-flowing. No ‘steps’. Just you, the muse, your intuition. And the courage to take risks.
The first exercise includes an invitation to use whatever papers are on hand, affix them to a page and create.
My mind immediately leapt to my mother’s prayer cards. This would be a good home for them. Not just on the first page, but on every page I create in this art journal.
In this case, the journal is an old book I found in a box that I’m willing to release to the creative forces. It is part of a set of three I’ve had for years. Unique to this one is the way the inside pages are inserted. They are all upside down.
A book with upside-down pages seemed appropriate at this time. The world right now feels a little topsy-turvy. Like everything we once knew, relied on, took for granted is no longer so dependable. So known. So inevitable.
There are no mistakes.
Working on this art journal, “My Mother’s Prayers” is stirring up my thoughts and feelings and memories of my Catholic upbringing, my mother’s prayers and her unshakable faith and our relationships. It is giving me pause to look at it all through different glasses, angles, lenses, perspectives. Upside down included.
Yesterday, I completed my third 2-page spread in the book. As with the previous two, this spread also includes a couple of the cards from mom’s collection.
As I created the page using flowers from the garden that were at the end of their life-cycle, my mind swept back to childhood days when my sister and I would help mom with the flowers in church on Saturdays.
I go back to this memory a lot. As if somehwere in that sacred space I might somehow find the key to where my mother’s and my relationship went off the rails.
Because it was. For much of our life together, not a very well functioning relationship.
In one of Orly’s videos for the course, she talks about how it’s important to live within the gifts, not the trauma of the past.
There were many, many gifts that came through my relationship with my mother. It helped forge the backbone of who I am today and who I am as a mother, an artist, a woman, a human being.
In her final years, the tensions between us eased. In her passing, they fade away leaving behind only Love and memories of the sacred moments of grace we shared.
The gifts in those moments are what fill me up today. They give me peace, hope, faith, Love.
Perhaps, one of its gifts is also in the surrendering of any guilt I may be unknowingly carrying from the past.
And I smile as I write the word ‘guilt’.
How very ‘Catholic’ of me.
My middle sister and I used to joke a lot about our Catholic guilt. We were good at it. Doused in it as children, it felt only natural to carry it into our adult years.
It took me years, and lots of therapy, to realize guilt is not natural. Nor is it constructive.
It can however, be a powerful force for change.
To not carry guilt, I must clean up my messes. It isn’t about tidying up the past as much as honouring it so that I can let it go without feeling… guilty.
And so, I create.
A book of prayers. For my mother. For me. For my daughters. My soon to be born grand-daughter.
A book of prayers that begins with the words I wrote on the very first 2-page spread. Words that surprised me even as I wrote them: “The crosses we carry through the centuries burden us with their blind faith in what to believe in the here and now. Their weighty presence strangles our breath as we struggle to free ourselves of the guilt and shame of a past we cannot change.“
I cannot change the difficult times with my mother.
I can honour our past, all of it, and in the here and now, celebrate and cherish her beautiful thread in the tapestry of my life.
Being the mother she was, her spirit is praying for all of us now.
What a wonderful gift of life and death in an unending circle of Love that remains, as always, nourished by my mother’s prayers.