Persons of mature age seem to embody a single-pointed purpose. I often wonder if I will be that way in 30 years. My life now seems so fractured into a zillion purposes: parenting my three kids, nurturing a good marriage, teaching and working, caring for my Type 1 daughter, being available to family and friends, and the ever-elusive desire to pursue an art career.
The widowed women I have known, seem to stand, however feebly, with a solidity that perhaps only the years of living so many different lives has afforded them. Each white-haired woman has been a child, a teenager, a young adult, a newlywed, a mother, a career woman, and then a widow. They have served the people in their lives with huge generosity of heart, with ache and concern for others’ well-being, and with dignity in the small things.
Fè Arasmo, born March 20, 1924, was just such a woman. I met her in her final years when, before her first stroke, she crafted beautiful beaded necklaces for every woman in our church. She just gave them to us. She lived with her loving daughter, Helen, and found ways to light up the lives of every one she met. Her infectious smile, her lovely Filipino accent, her laughter…all belied her small stature and left you with a sense of largesse and joie-de-vivre.
How she continued to live her last year with that beautiful smile, I do not know. She fought to regain strength and mobility after the first stroke, only to have another one, as well as other health issues, land her in the hospital numerous times. I cannot imagine what it must be like to have your mind as spry and quick as ever, yet not be able to tell your body to get up and walk.
But the day came, on July 20, 2012, when Someone came to her and said, “Talitha koum…dear little one, get up and walk.” And so she got up and walked out of this life into the next… happy, whole, bright, and probably not just walking. The twinkle I often saw in her eye suggested to me that she probably skipped and twirled when no one was looking. And so I imagine her leaving in this way.
I have a feeling that if Fè could whisper something to me from the other side of the Veil, she might tell me: “Jen, it’s not about the art exactly. It’s about the Faces of all you see, all whom you come into contact with, all the loved ones, the friends, the people who live and work and leave this world.”
And so, with this in mind, I’m wanting to return to my 100 Portraits Project, which only made it to #12 I think. It may only go on for another 12. So be it. This seems to be how my “art career” unfolds: with fits and starts, with courses altered, plans redirected. Mine is not so single-pointed as I imagine these women of mature years to have.
Perhaps this single-pointed purpose…hard-won as husband and loved ones have passed away and left them outside the mothering years, the marriage years, the youth years…perhaps the thing to which they signal for us is that one day, we too will have a Hand stretch out to us, beckoning us to “get up and walk” out of this life. How do I live this now? Am I able to have this single-pointed purpose now at age 47? Is it only possible in the years following the stripping away of all we have held dear?
I do not have the answers for this. I don’t really need to. I just need to live today. And to peer into the faces of others to see glimpses of the Face I will one day see face-to-face…alongside Fè Arasmo, a dear lady, friend, mother, and teacher, who is skipping and twirling right now.