Mona Lisa Rain – Vigil with my Sue
Mona Lisa Rain
I hear she recently appeared in the dreams of students and on the doorsteps of revolutionaries. Some say dancing, others say laughing, and still others report stardust appearing on paintings, there are angels around her and she flies free with her notebook in hand – but tonight for me her galaxy is quiet. I squeeze her hand in tandem with the breathing tube. The water at the end of the breathing vessel is from within her. So yes, there is moisture and life. But where are you? I think you have left the building. What do I do now. We just sit beside you talking to you – can you hear us? I imagine so.
There is nothing I didn’t say this week or the week before. I have known who she is and don’t have to be sorry to not have honored ‘this’. This relationship and this gift we have shared between ourselves, and with others, is blessed by having shared tea at our table at the same time. We too, are as blessed – by you.
I wasn’t done. She wasn’t done. A few of our last conversations had to do with the next painting class on the Sealskin of women, which was supposed to start in a few weeks and the firewood that wasn’t covered before the rain. The morning she went to the land down under to the world in between was the first rain of Fall. She remembered the wood for winter needed covering. She didn’t remember the easel from Paris was left on the mountaintop. Don’t worry, the cat has been fed now and the French easel is tucked safely inside.
Remember, just a few weeks ago you were painting on that French easel – The Eiffel Tower was never so regal in her gown as she was before the brush of the master. The water lilies of Monet shone their faces towards her brush – vying for her attention-filled stroke of titanium white. The Black Madonna of the crypt made her yearly appearance in the light of day. Have you ever in your whole life sketched a mass?
As we dashed in and out of the rain, your Paris hoodie kept you dry – you have never needed an umbrella. Too butch for that. All of this and the escargot and foie gras and poetry salon at Café Flore was a life-changing beauty. How you see everything changes the way we see everything. So much moving imagery passed across your screen in those nine days. I felt the tenuousness of it and wished for more time for us, just us, as I know you did. Just the other day we agreed to go back next year.
Sue, it was the Mona Lisa that let me know the world was about to change. I just didn’t know how.
We fought our way ‘cheek and jowl’ (like she was fond to say) up to Giaconda. This struggle to get near Da Vinci’s lady was arduous and glamorous – I mean here we were fighting our way to the lady at the Louvre. She wanted me with her – we were holding hands so we wouldn’t be separated. I stopped her a few feet short of our goal and called over the crowds and cameras:
SUE! They are all, we are all, struggling to be near her. Imagine that. All of this is-for-her. In a second we were whisked in front. She began to cry. Really cry. In time, she looked up and out with tear streaked eyes and asked: Is it raining?
What? I asked.
Is it raining?
I assured her it wasn’t raining; I didn’t need to remind her we were in the Louvre and it didn’t rain inside. Something happened then, in a series of other happenings, and in that moment showed me time was moving in a different way. There were strange clues strung like beads around these last days, months, years. But. When you live in the presence of a human disguised as an angel, or an angel disguised as a human, you come to accept concepts your mind only moments before could not begin to fathom as a potential thought. There have been many signs, as any life well lived will begin to reveal, however slowly they may appear.
Yet nothing seemed to point to this – or if so – she didn’t let on, but that is so very like her.
But. But. She wasn’t done. She isn’t done. As I write this she sits ‘listening’ to opera in a bed that isn’t her own, with ‘others’ who shine bright lights into her eyes and squeeze her toes. I wince. She doesn’t like her feet touched.
I teach each person who cares for her who she is. I show them images of her just a few days ago – weeks ago in Paris, so they can visualize with me who she IS. Not who she was. I don’t show them the chainsaw one where she is chopping down the tree, but I do show them the ones where she is laughing and demonstrating how to do the cosmos for our students. I do show them her paintings…do you SEE who she is? This isn’t a little old lady. This isn’t a senior citizen. Don’t be fooled by the white hair and glasses. This is our bad-ass Elder. Our Art Matriarch as some are fond to call her. THIS is the Master Teacher. Ours.
I differentiate her but she doesn’t really need my help. I place the SARK blanket with messages of love to keep her feet warm and bring her pillow from Cosmic Cowgirls and place her black leather journal with two pencils by her side. Just few days ago – by the time she is wheeled in she has all the nurses on her side – she calls them darlin’ and they make sure she has what she needs. Post surgery, they check on her still even from another department, with eyes weary from death lingering around ones who they too know, aren’t quite ready. They tell us to be optimistic, and we are. Mostly. I wonder if this is the part of their job making them the most tired. Pretending.
Soon it is obvious that we aren’t just another family, as nine of us at a time gather to pray and rattle and chant. Yes please, can we draw the curtains, we need to speak to Sue privately. They don’t ask questions. I get the feeling families will do almost anything in situations like this – and they aren’t surprised by it. But by us, they are. They haven’t seen it before. And I suddenly want to visit all the little white haired ones who have no one…but I have a task here to witness beauty unraveling before my eyes and not to lose my connection with what is happening at the end of my brush.
I look back as we all will. There was the pain between the shoulders for 7 years that she claimed was something else. The blood spot in the eye. The visible decrease in her size over the past year. The urgency. The family history of almost every single family member dying from the same things she ended up wrestling with – the heart and it’s mysterious functions. The Mona Lisa rain.
I showed the Doctor the image of her heart as a cathedral painted earlier this Summer. It was as if someone saw his own heart when he saw that heart. Sue has been keeping him up at night since the surgery, in her quiet space she calls to him – you were the one for this work with me. The night before surgery we asked – is he the one? Yes, he is. As he struggles with her current poor prognosis I begin to understand her choice. He tells me: Do you know how blessed you are to have had her this strong this long with the state of her heart? He tells me how this time last year his own mother, almost the same age, dropped dead after her dinner party and how he takes consolation she was doing what she loved right before. He tells me to celebrate her and to talk to her. I ask him to give me an image of what healing would look like for real – what would the cells be doing? How about the neurons. I ask. What synapses would need to form and what neurons would need to fire and how and where and in what time frame? I ask him to tell me in the same way that I remind him that Jesus healed the blind man through clay and holy spit. I want him to tell me what those ingredients are for Sue. He tries. I try. I tell him we study quantum physics over tea.
Then I tell him, as I am telling you, the story of her last days before entry through the big metal doors that she may never walk out of, alive.
It is barely a week ago now since we taught a workshop based on our deepest work, that which we both have dedicated the greater part of our last ten years to – the work of creativity as a path to the development of the soul. I called this gathering with a clear intention for her to teach us hands and the cosmos. When she arrives she has already been having some challenges, which for once, she tells me. As the days unfold all gathered witness to her moving in and out of spaces and places worrying us and wondering us. But she insists. Cosmos for every painting – each one must have her stars spread across their skies. One by one by one. The final day we sing the healing song and beat the drum and then, she agrees. It is time to go.
When we bring her there into the ER cave, my love and I cannot imagine – cannot imagine – what could happen. What I don’t allow myself to think is that I might lose her. If you have ever had the gift of being in the presence of the Master then you know her vitality at 78 encourages you to be better right where you are in your own life – and may shame you, kindly, into getting off your own ass.
You hear her tell you: Everything is art. Don’t rush through this. What is it you want to achieve here? Creativity is the path of the soul. We are sacks of cooling stardust, put your star here on this canvas. Somehow her questions about your painting and your creativity become the signposts for life itself. You understand this place, and your place better. She calls the body her cosmic address. She reminds you that you are standing in the cosmos.
In her cosmic address right now there is no one answering my tenuous knock at the door on the tender heart. In three cuts they opened her. Her stars took the opportunity to defy gravity as they do, and slip on out for a better view. I wonder if it was curiosity itself that took her from me. She just wanted a different perspective and lost sight of how hard it might be to get back into the skin she left behind, no longer the way she knew it. Is it fit for occupancy? Can she, should she, inhabit the skin she so often showed her cosmos beings moving out of? She wondered at it these past few days considering her options, or so we tell ourselves since it seems ‘so Sue’. Her heart, they said needed to be repaired, and she agreed. Although I admit without guilt, I would have preferred a heart attack while scaling the mountain of Terra Sophia, to tubes, needles, pumps and bells that go off in the night. It is no comfort to me to know that we each choose our own path somehow.
Everyone has their ‘why stories’ about all of it, because that is what we do as humans. We make up the why as a way to explore our own experience of her story and ours connected to hers. I have no experience of her being complete or done or ready to leave this earth plane, or what she called the event horizon. So I am complete but far from content with this unfolding scene. My tears fall down my cheek and I tenderly place them upon her forehead.
She gave me many gifts, which I have joyfully shared in my life through intentional creativity. The gift, upon which all her gifts was forged in the crucible and became gold, was loving me, the child of her heart, unconditionally. The palpable light in her face when she saw me, even after just 24 hours was something most of us only wish for. I had it. And now I don’t. Oh her light upon me! And many of you got to be a part of this bond – a lineage of women artists sharing gifts.
Years ago she told me, she hopes her Guardian, her art mentor, (Lenore Thomas Strauss) knows she is doing her work. This was one of the most important things to her – she didn’t want the gift given her by her mentor to be squandered. Yesterday in circle I shared. Sue didn’t have to wonder if I shared her gift. I did. I am. It is who I am. And what I do. She was a part of every part of it.
I cannot think of any decision I have made over the past twenty plus years that did not take her into consideration. She was my reference point – in the strangest way for both sanity and wild spiritedness. And for all things Artist.
So how than I shall I proceed? With my hands folded like Mona Lisa and a smile knowing more then we shall ever know or should ever know about a woman like Sue. I sit in awe and I reply… through my sobs. Yes Sue. Teacher. It is raining.
They won’t say heart attack. They won’t say stroke. They won’t say coma. She is an enigma of space and time. She travels in dimensions now that she has always spoken of to me as simply as if it was time to stir the fire. Oh yes. The Black Hole. Oh yes. The neurons and particles, and did I tell you about my epiphany that Gravity is God, is Goddess? This she said to me the morning we spent before we heard her laugh for the last time. Gravity is the God particle. When I said goodbye I watched her go – feeling so blessed for this chance at a life she was sure would end if she didn’t go into that other place. I say I trusted her choice, and I did. But do I? Would I, had I known? Thankfully those are not my questions to answer, only to ask. And ask I shall. I longed to wheel her out of there…and told her that was her choice. But she said – No, it isn’t my choice. This I must do.
Clearly she thought this was her chance to live – otherwise she wouldn’t have done it…and perhaps we would be having tea by the fire at café. Perhaps not.
My mother, who brought Sue into my life before I was born, said we are the “if only people,” that it is a part of our process to just ask. If only I had done this or that would it be different? I struggle against the outcome of what has happened in the life of the legendary Artist known as Sue Hoya Sellars in just one short week. I have no stories to make up about why she has chosen to go, or stay this way, or have this experience, or any outcome yet to come. I have no story at all, which is perhaps the hardest part at this time.
I fail to grasp any meaning in the loss of one taken so soon. I choose to allow it to be what it is. A tragedy. Whether it be inevitable or hereditary. Her time. Her choice. Or her peace in the process. And so on. For me, it is a tragedy and no story will take that from me. This is my story and no spiritual consolation will remedy the presence of this loss.
As I sit beside the being who has shaped who I am along side my own mother, I am in devastation made more acute by the enormity of her love in each second as it floods me. The one who chose me as her own and gave her gift to me, and at my bidding, shared it with the women I loved. She didn’t think she would like teaching. I coaxed her at first, and then you did…and I thank you and she thanks you.
She was always, and I do mean always, speaking of the cosmos and her place in it. Demonstrating in her paintings the nature of beings who are both in this world and the other one. Dimension surfing. Coming into form. She is now in both as she hovers in the in-betweens. I cannot help but hope beyond hope that she is conscious in such a way as to enjoy finally being the center of her own painting process in form without encumbered flesh. I am sure my suffering, and our grief, keep her from a total exit into comet or nebula birth. I have done my best to have my own experience and yet not be a part of holding her in places she no longer wishes to inhabit. Today I discovered that anything I brought could be used for her good, including my desire for her to wake up and my willingness to release her. The universe itself is too good not to know the difference between my call to her to wake, and my call to her to be free. I don’t trust many things, but this resonance of love able to be used for love in all forms, I do trust.
Today we put all of our healing power and quantum physics into the great unfolding myth of Sue Hoya. I knew if she could heal, she would heal, and that our community, our cosmic red thread would make all resources available to reweave the field – if her angels would just pick up the threads. See here they are – borrow my neurons, take this flow of biophotons, stitch this particle and wave into wholeness again. Won’t you please hear us?
There is nothing I haven’t said to her about my love and gratitude. In that spacious place I receive her comforting presence. A fine sprinkling of Milky Way settles about my shoulders like a shawl on a night when I feel chilled. I stretch my feet out and gaze into the fire the way she taught me. I stir my tea, clinking the side with my spoon. I know she is everywhere now. Never gone from me. It is mine to understand over time how this works in the way she taught me. My job now is to be present enough not to let my sorrow block the blessings.
Yes. It is raining. They said your aorta might shower. They said your brain may have experienced a watershed. You wanted me to check the water tank. Don’t worry, it’s full of Terra Sophia water, my precious Sue. You can row and row through the stars as you often do as you go to sleep. You told me this many times, but when I heard my own love speak of it, I could almost hear your oars in the water. He will have to tell his own story about that another day.
The nurses said you are all tucked in tonight since I call them in the middle of the night to make sure they are watching you closely. When I said goodbye tonight I tucked your leather journal and pen beneath your hand. Remember…this is what you do and who you are. I don’t need to remind you. You said the kitty, once my kitty, likes to sleep on your shirts since she can smell you – you told us to bring her one to sleep on while you are gone. So it is in that spirit I tuck your familiar smelling journal under your warm hand. I extend each finger and place them carefully so if you choose to rise,
It is right here for you.
I have so much more to say. And so much more to hear. When I am not controlling myself my head begins to shake back and forth – no no no no. How can I bear this loss. I know we do and I now y0u are everywhere now. I think this thought will help in time. But for now. I am inconsolable to lose someone who loved me unconditionally and whom I loved in the same way. Ours was a big long love – you called me the child of your heart. And I am. You came when my mom was pregnant with me, it was your voice I heard along with hers. I will try to take comfort in the mystery my dear Mentor and Mother, but for now I am lost, looking for you in the everywhere that you are. Supernova Sue.
You tell the story of my first word being moon, because as a baby you would point to it over and over, and so it was you that heard me say it. My second word is: rain. Mona Lisa rain.
yours in red thread, the one you always tie on your painting striped overalls.