After my dad retired, my parents spent winters in Florida. Without her home and family to occupy her time, my mother took up a variety of hobbies, including painting. Lessons were offered at the community center in their RV park, and my mother became a prolific painter.
After she stopped going to Florida, my mom set up her easel in an upstairs bedroom at home and painted through her Michigan winters.
When we were clearing out her house last month, we found a painting she had not finished.
I took it home.
Something in this painting speaks to me—perhaps just because it is unfinished. It reminds me that we all leave things unfinished.
And I am not talking just about death.
When I left my job in July, I left plenty of things unfinished, projects for someone else to complete—or not. Once we are gone, someone else will pick up our works-in-progress and determine their fate.
I think that every time we make a change something goes undone.
With my work, I had to walk away without knowing the outcome of unfinished projects. I also walked away from work relationships—some old and some just beginning—leaving them without knowing where they might have gone, how they might have developed.
Every letting go is practice for the final letting go.
While looking for something in a closet a few months ago, I came across a white box I did not recognize. Inside was a knitting project I had started maybe fifteen years ago and had set aside when I switched jobs. The new job zapped all my energy, and I stopped knitting for a few years. Once I started knitting again, I hadn’t remembered this sweater, and it has sat unfinished all these years.
I was delighted to find it, and it brought back memories of a trip to Seattle and my visit to a well-known yarn shop where I bought this yarn.
Like my mother’s unfinished painting, this sweater reminds me of my own unfinishedness, of being a work-in-progress.
I am comfortable with being in process, comfortable living in the in-between spaces. Someone recently suggested I am standing on a precipice, and I agreed. My mother has died, and I have left my work—two cornerstones of my life, gone. What comes next is not entirely clear, and I want to stay open to the possibilities.
For now, though, I am trying to stay in that in-between space, where grief intersects with hope.