Well September ended on a very sad note with the loss of my sister-in-law, JP. The entire month was really a blur. I began coaching at a new school, teaching a new subject on a new campus (same college) and my oldest began her elementary school career. It became apparent early in the month that JP was not doing well but we had no idea how quickly things would spiral downward. In all honesty it was a blessing it was relatively quick. It was extremely painful for her and those standing by watching her body slowly shut down.
In the few days since her passing we have been spending most of our free time over with the family trying to distract, cheer, feed, and love them. My mother-in-law has made it her mission in life to care for them and we have come along for the ride, doing our best to help in any way we can. Matt has put together new beds, built shelves in the garage, organized and smoked 10 pounds of meat all in the matter of two days. Rose has nursed, cooked, cleaned and shuttled children to and fro. Each family member doing what they can to help them through this time of grief and shock. The children just assumed the their mom would continue to rally every time the cancer returned. The adults knew the day would come when she could not but it always seemed far off in another lifetime.
I have little experience with this type of grief. The folks I have known that have passed away were older and had lived a long rich happy life. It is always sad but you know their time was full and each moment was theirs to own, there were no stolen moments, no stolen time. They left behind self-sufficient families prepared to move on without them. This situation is so different. JP was young with young children who need her desperately. She has husband that loved her through many trials and triumphs. He continues to love her with that same richness and passion.
Watching the family grieve has been indescribable. It is hard to find the words. The younger children seemed to emote very little and wish to continue on their regular schedule. This seems quite healthy to me but I am afraid they are not understanding the finality of death. Each holiday, each special event will wrap them back up in missing their mom. The older kids seem to be moving through a more typical grief where they are sad and aloof one moment and then reaching out for help or a distraction the next. I worry about each of them for different reasons, each with their own personality traits that will allow them to rise back up or fall down into destructive patterns. I hope we can help them harness the traits that will allow them to rise rather than fall.
My brother-in-law has truly been inspiring. I knew he had a kind and gentle heart but his compassion through this has been a testament of his love for his wife and family. I have decided to work on a woodcut for him and for the kids. They are all deeply religious and are committed completely to the Catholic faith. As this is the religion I was engulfed in as a youth, the religion that creates much of my current traditions, I understand (to a degree) what that connection means to them in this time. I decided that I will begin a woodcut of the Vatican Church. JP would have loved it and she asked before for a piece for her wall. I am only sad that it will finally make it there when she is not around to enjoy it.
I am also working on a new design mixed media piece that I planned to begin last week. I have been so disconnected from my work with all the recent events. I am happy to feel inspired again, to feel purpose and some confidence in what I do. I hope what I can create will bring some joy to my family or at least a sense of security that she is being taken care of in a much better place.