Thank you to those of you who spent time with the work. Be it for 4 seconds, 4 minutes, or 4 hours (apologies to the one that travelled 2.5 hours that they'll never get back, however.) Thank you to those that left messages of profound emotional moments, and thank you for feeling safe enough to leave them in the comments book. Thank you to those that met with me in person and shared stories of loved ones lost, I cannot even begin to describe what a privilege it was for me.
This was never supposed to be resolved. I don't think grief can be resolved. The nature of my work and the nature of the installation wasn't ever supposed to be a clear indication of what grief was or is, but rather a place to experiment with the profound emotions and memories that grief is unable to reconcile. I think that if I thought that I had answers, this would have never been a thing and I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing right now.
I remember the way my mother's brow furrowed when she concentrated, but I can't remember the shade of brown her eyes were. However, I remember my father's deep set blue eyes, but not what his hands looked like. I can still hear their voices, but only certain phrases. My mother beckons, "Lee?" and my father sings. "Don't worry, be happy." (How I hated that, then!)
If I've learnt anything about grief, it's that it's fussy and it's messy. It doesn't package up nicely with a neat bow ready to be placed with all the other packages with neat little bows that line the curio cabinet of my mind ("Alysia learns Santa Claus doesn't exist", "Alysia's first kiss", ..."Alysia's first death...?"). I suppose that's what makes death and bereavement so truly complicated, regardless of circumstance. Someone very important to you is no longer there. Someone who shaped your reality is missing. It's a profound shift into a new existence and whether you're dragged kicking and screaming (like I was) or march resolutely forward (like I most certainly did not), it's universally the same: we've shifted. This move has taken place without my consent and whether or not I like it, this is how things are now.
It's sticky and crumbly. Shift wasn't an expression of answers, it was a series of conflicted questions, some asked timidly while others boldly, and made room enough to try to understand the unfocussed and often blurry misplaced memories. The ones that fling far then suddenly snap back in front of you. The ones that nick you when you're at a café and Janis Joplin starts playing over the loudspeaker. The ones that inhabit the sun glinting off the window on the Metro car, tricking your eyes into seeing your father.
After my father died we were called to the hospital bed where he lay dead. We mourned him quietly and awkwardly.
I was given a moment alone. Distressed, I sat beside him and put my hand on his forearm.
It was still warm.