Sunday, 11 May 2014

Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day in some parts of the world, including Germany. More than a decade-and-a-half since my mother’s death I am still working on our relationship. All I can say with any certainty, is that I am beginning to understand her. Perhaps understanding will eventually become acceptance and forgiveness for both of us. 

My post today is not about me; it is about an artist friend living in Valley’s End, Russell G. Morris, who lost his mother after a long illness. This is what he says:

During the four years that my mother was hospitalised I kept a visual diary, making one or two drawings per visit. This became a way for me to remain engaged and attentive once my own conversation was exhausted. Mum had ceased to speak long before she was admitted to hospital and communication was only made possible by her tapping on my free hand whilst I watched, waited or drew.

Each day I simply made a record of the time spent between us - and whether a drawing was good or bad seemed irrelevant, because they were done just for us. Mum was happy to be the object of my attention, although there were obviously times when enough was enough, and then silent regard remained between us.”

Although the drawings were “done just for us “,  Russell was persuaded to exhibit them. I took photographs of several in the series, and have chosen to publish four of them here, starting with the earliest one and progressing to the last one of Russell’s mum's final day.

Russell is not only a painter, he is also a poet.
These are three poems he wrote after his mother’s death.

For a time of lasts

Your last breath
your unexpected tear
the making of my last drawing
and then with your eyes closed and arms folded
I leave a few coins tucked inside your evening bag
for the crossing over
before the last kiss
of a particular coldness


At least for tea,
would you come?
I’d meant to ask sooner
before you left.
I have your good china
the best set washed
and the silver pot for Sundays.
I’ve kept all of that
in case you might find a way
to set endlessness aside for a moment.

Lifeline : A Drawing

It’s the way you were left,
with one hand clenched
in a fierce and pitiful claw,
your anchor, 
blood-slow, cursed
and hooked fast between a dead sea of pins.

Whilst the other turns to tapping morse against my palm
a code I’ve come to understand and translate line to line.

For each visit a fresh page
where my first few lines float upon the surface,
until you appear
to be mostly watching me
struggle to watch
as you endure
a few more hours of my desperation.

R. Morris
1st April 2013


  1. My mother and I had a troubled relationship even though we loved each other fiercely. I held her hand while she died. When it was apparent that she was gone I thought "The next time I see you we will be free of the turmoil and finally have the relationship that God intended." My daughter was born a year later and we have the kind of relationship that I wish I had with my mother. Sometimes I think that my mother sent her to me as a peace offering.

  2. I respect how he has dealt with a terribly upsetting situation in a creative way.

  3. Really brilliant poetry and drawings. Your own wise words echo with my own pained ambivalence, as I think you know. Mum is deeply displeased with me (along with my brother, and by osmosis, his two/ my only niece and nephew) for the role I play in an apt dad supported me in buying, that I might have a nest in later years. Of course , I assured him that they would live there themselves as long as they wished. Dad is gone. Mum is essentially remarried to a gentleman of some means who has installed them in a much nicer apt. Average mum might think that at my present senior time, Blog invisible hubby and I might need such accommodation, or at least a portion of the proceeds (have put it out to vacation rentals. This IS Waikiki) but it has been determined that I am a thief, Bette noir. Or perhaps Bette Davis? It is preoccupying and taxing my peace and health. Nothing I do, including sending mum ALL Proceeds would repair our already lackn of positive regard....... Am thinking of moving far and annonymously away , or at least enjoy the lack of communication with them. Nevertheless I did send mum a check for last month. She can be displeased with the amount after returning from her latest pleasure trip with her physician. Sorry if this has been inappropriate. But you strengthen me. You are a nurturing, wiser figure in my life. Your honesty edifies. Aloha

    1. Her gentleman is a physician, to be clear.

  4. This brings tears. I was a painter and sculptor for fifty years before declining sight made me a writer. When my mother lay dying, I made drawings. She couldn't hear me and there was nothing left for me to tell her. In that last hour we were love's mute witnesses.

  5. Hello:

    We are very moved by this post which, by its very nature, brings back memories of both of our mothers both of whom, as it happens, died from cancer.

    But what strikes such a chord is the brilliance of the drawings you show and the sensitivity and insight of the poetry. What a remarkable man.

  6. What a beautiful, heartfelt post. People are blessed who have wonderful relationships with their parents. I'm not one of those.

  7. These poems break my heart and bring tears to my eyes. My mom died when I was 25 -- too young to see me fully formed. I miss her every day. I often wonder, had she lived, would we have had the relationship I think and hope we would have? Who can say. I just know there is always a spot in my heart where she has set up camp. Today is hard, but somehow I have to hope that she knows I'm very happy and that I loved her very much. Thanks for sharing this work of art and these beautiful stories and the background that goes with them. May you one day find the forgiveness and acceptance you both deserve and will welcome. Hugs.

  8. Those poems are beautiful. Since my mother's death, I've gradually come to understand her better, and, thus, accept her actions better.


  9. This is truly beautiful. Thank you.
    My relationship with my mother was fraught, difficult and painful.
    Finally I am (starting) to come to terms with it, to accept and be grateful for the positives, and to let the negatives go. Dwelling on them brings NO healing.

  10. Oh, I simply love this, Friko. It's beautiful and sad and poignant and just perfect. He is indeed a poet as well as a gifted artist. And your posting this today is a great gift for me, who has a mother who isn't here any more either. Thank you.

  11. My relationship with my mother improved once she had dementia. She had forgotten how lazy, selfish and disagreeable I was! She always thanked me for visiting then.

  12. wow enjoyed his verse....esp that first reminds me of watching my mother in law die....a memory i dont think i will ever let go of...and intriguing pictures of his too...its good you are still working out that relationship with you own mom...time does bring a bit of understanding....

  13. Heartfelt and touching. Will we ever stop working on the relationship with our mothers? When my Mom died (and also when my Dad died just recently) I felt all the "bad things" fell away from me. There was only love for both of them. I found it freeing, but sometimes I wish I had been a bit more understanding while they were still alive.

  14. I just hung up from a phone call with my mother. She will be 78 in August and I'm so thankful for her. There have been tensions in our relationship over the years, but we've been able to resolve them. I dread the day when she becomes frail and weak. Seeing the drawings and the progression or regression over time is stark reality. The poems - evocative of loss and love.

  15. It is a very touching post, words and pictures. Once more, I am so very grateful for having both my parents still around, still well enough to lead their lives independently. This won't last forever, I know that, but I want to appreciate it for as long as we all can.

  16. Very moving. There is always "unsettled business", and plenty of regrets, especially with parents, in life and after it. How I remember my mother sighing "A mother's place is in the wrong......"!

  17. So sad, these drawings remind me of my mother, who withered away from a happy, hearty, overweight woman to a skin covered skeleton in just a few years.

  18. This is an amazing post. Sad but poignant. There are always regrets aren't there? No matter how good the relationship...

  19. Hallo Friko,
    ausdrucksvolle Zeichnungen von Russel G. Morris. Der Tod und das Sterben stecken intensiv in den Zeichnungen.

    Gruß Dieter

  20. This is very fine art emerging from a great deal of pain and love. My parents both died over 30 years ago and I was lucky that my relationship with them both, though it had its ups and downs at time, was always basically loving and supportive.

  21. My mother was torn out of my life before I had discovered what sort of adult and woman I really was, busy as I was living the new and improved version of her life. When she was gone, I could not go on with that and I escaped it. I think that's what she secretly wanted to do from her life too. I come from a line of headstrong women who nevertheless get trapped in conventional roles. I didn't want to throw away my life like my mother did. Bless her soul.

  22. It is hard to comment through my tears but what an outstanding post this is. The beauty of his words will lead me to seek out more of his work.

  23. A moving post -- thank you, Friko.

  24. My mother came to Israel from Germany at the age of 6.her mother was 30 something, they felt outsiders most of their life and i think thats why they were so close,
    We dont have here mother day any more.we have family day which is not the same, but less emotional ,

  25. " In case you might find a way
    to set endlessness aside for a moment"

    If only they could ....

  26. Outstanding post. I promise to do better.

  27. Now that is a loyal and loving son!! Touching poems. What a treasure for him to have all those drawing--just for he and mom. :)

  28. My eyes are filled with tears
    as I remember
    the last years of my mother's life
    finally we were close.
    Still much I do not understand but it does not matter at this time.
    Dealing with my own health and aging
    and do not like what is going on.
    But I do find a deep peace living by my woods and gardening.
    Your words always make me think
    in a deep way...

  29. What an entirely different take on mother's day than the one where you stand there with your hands full of flowers, your eyes full of light, your heart full love, with nothing more to give (Zwei Haendchen voll Blumen, zwei Augen voll Licht, ein Herz voller Liebe - Mehr habe ich nicht).

    What I do give my mother is time. When she phones I drop everything. There is always later to catch up on stuff. I dread the day I won't hear her voice anymore. Not because I am her daughter. But because I truly like her. AND I have known her all my life, surprise, surprise. She is an extraordinary woman. Long may she last. Though a shadow is beginning to cast. Not because she isn't compos mentis. She is. But ever since her accident back last autumn she reminds me of a candle. Flickering. Obviously, at 81 you are allowed to excuse yourself. Eventually. Not just yet.

    I myself - and if I have related this before my apologies - don't hold any store by mother's day. I find it so artificial I double over. For me any day my son returns in one piece and happy is mother's day. All year round.

    Will he take photographs of me (he is snazzy with the camera)? I don't know. I really don't. Unlikely. Probably too busy asking me what the fuck I am doing dying. My great grandfather (a professional painter who "hangs" not least in Munich) once did Beethoven's death mask. Best I have ever seen. And then there was the Italian who, I don't know say twenty/thirty years ago, drew his beloved wife as she was going down. Can't remember his name for the life of me. Doesn't matter. Those sketches etched into my mind.

    Great post, Friko. As always.


  30. Yes, I should post about the complex relationship with my mother. I miss her, but not like others miss their mothers. I guess I miss that we did not really understand each other before she died.

  31. Have been away from your postings far too long - such insight and wisdom on these pages along with sadness and regrets posted by other readers. My own Mother fades more and more each day. - dementia, severe physical issues have taken her beyond what we can understand. I was so blessed to be raised in a loving home - Mom & I shared such special times together & she was such a wonderful Grandmother to our son. One of the things I miss - doing dishes together after sharing a meal and just talking about simple, everyday things. We celebrated Mother's Day yesterday - it may have been our last one together.

  32. Too sad. I was with my mom at the end. I laid my hand on her face after she was warm. I felt a great heave of peace. Dianne.

  33. Our relationships with our mothers can be so complex. The drawings and the poem are very moving. Both broke my heart.

  34. Beautiful. Powerful.

    My challenging relationship was with my dad. My mother died too young and we didn't have enough distance for a fester.

    I think I've finally slain the ghosts of the twisted and often cruel nature of our relationship. He leaned on me to much after mum died and was cruel in his criticisms of my perceived shortfalls.


  35. My last week with my Mom was in hospital. I was there at 6 in the morning and stayed until she fell asleep at night. The only way we could communicate was by the squeezing of her hand. - one for yes, two for no - sometimes she squeezed lightly just to hold on. I communicated with her, we had long chats, when she was tired I read and talked to her - reminiscing about my childhood and all that she had taught me - I have never forgotten that last week as she declined day by day. It will be forever etched in my memory. This post is way beyond brilliant Friko. I especially was drawn to Russel's words , paintings and poetry. His words were simply the way we feel, so powerful and sad. Thank you so much for sharing this very moving post.

  36. Lovely -- and unendingly sad.

    I have to call my mom.


  37. Dear Friko, I heard myself sigh deeply upon finishing the reading of those three poems and trying to distill the moment of those drawings. His deep love and her setting forth into that final journey make me sob inside. Mystery is so much beauty and so much darkness and I remain dumb before it. Peace.

  38. Hello, Friko, I agree “Perhaps understanding will eventually become acceptance and forgiveness for both of us.” My siblings and I are taking care of our mother at her home with the assist of a doctor and her nurses on call 24 hours a day. I’m thankful that we could thank her in person on Mother's Day. She is 93 and her lung cancer was turned out two years ago out of blue. Her anxiety for breathlessness is under control by medication but the side effect of some medicine made her unable to speak clearly and her limbs have gotten listless, but we including mom are hanging in there, accepting grudgingly and thanking for each other. While her mind is clear, her appearance gradually changed since last November and is getting closer to the Russell’s’ paintings. Only when she permits, I take a few pictures of her. Thank you for this post.


  39. Dear Friko - I remember your previous post about Russell and his drawings ... and that is a wonderful way to share with her in those dark days til the light comes for her and we remain to continue on. I'd love to draw ... and I was lucky to share my days with mother in talking - not about personal stuff, or daily stuff .. .but history, educative, relevant things to her, and reading about Cornwall - which she loved to know about ... my eyes were opened to much and I count myself blessed in that way .. cheers from a sunny Eastbourne - Hilary

  40. These poems and visual diary moved me immensely this morning.

  41. Friko, this is profoundly touching. Thank you for sharing your friend's words and photos; it seems that little Valley's End has no lack of talent.
    As my own complicated mother turns 93 this weekend, I am appreciative of this post and empathetic towards it.

  42. Extraordinary pictures and words. Thank you. I shan't forget them.


Comments are good, I like to know what you think of my posts. I know you'll keep it civil.