Years ago we bought a painting by a young artist in Prague that now hangs in our living room. It was one of the first pieces of ‘real art’ that Diana and I purchased together and has symbolized a commitment to risk in many ways for our marriage: it was pricey and put us in financial vulnerability, we had to transport it back to the states via trains and planes, and wondered if buying such a thing was really a good act of stewardship. Our daughters have grown up with this painting – it is of a young women serene amidst a wonderful swirl of oranges and browns – and call it ‘little red riding hood’ even though there is no red in the painting.
This morning I am watching the sunrise in our living room as the light slowly moves across her face – light that is split into clean lines like a picket fence through the window blinds. The bars of light are counterpointed to the shadows blocking the sun and throwing bands of dark across her eyes and mouth. When I sat down this morning it seemed as if there was a ‘speak no evil, hear no evil’ pronouncement upon her – closing her senses and speech off from the world. What did she see last night that she was shawdowed from speaking? What musings were on her tongue that were darkened into silence?
The image reminds me so much of people I have worked with in times of profound mourning: sitting across the table from you, seeking out your gaze for that split second glance, fumbling with their coffee mug, pushing the pages of the paper around the table top. They speak, they eat, they even smile – yet the shadow that falls across their eyes, their ears, their mouth is almost unbearable. For to look, hear, speak through the shadow of loss is to be lost in it in some ways and so we try to look away, talk about ‘other things’, remind our selves that ‘this too shall pass’ and the shadow will lift in time.
The shadow that falls on her face also extends across the room and on me as well – the room is striped in light and dark as the Sun slowly combs across the carpet. I need to remember this as a prayer for those in mourning and loss – to understand the shadow that settles on those in mourning and loss settles on me as well – I share the shadow even if I don’t acknowledge it.
Morning has moved the mourning beyond little red riding hood’s face since I begin this musing – she looks relieved to be awake and facing the light full-faced once again. I am glad as well for the movement of morning that has lifted mourning from her face… and from mine.