Chickadee Rosary
pines, mountains, sky...

My mother had her life, and thus her death, pretty much in order. Knowing that her palliative cancer drugs would eventually fail, she visited us during the xmas holidays to say goodbye; though she planned for hospice in the state in which she reared us, her decline—over basically a week—was very sudden, and she died very peacefully in her condo, with her next door neighbor & friend of 18 years holding one hand, and her eldest son the other, while all of us chatted to her on zoom.

Glass, sterling silver. Beads made by sylvus tarn & Frances Ross. Frit, powder, trailing. 23feb2021, 1/30s, f/8.0, ev +1.0 ISO 200, panasonic DMC-LX100; cropped, some dust cloned out

Her friend, a retired nurse, said she could hear us though by that time she was no longer speaking; we told her stories, how much we loved her—the sort of thing that usually takes place at a funeral. —She was visiting with friends and kayaking up to about a week before her death, which strikes me as absolutely the way to go. She had designated a medical advocate, and discussed her wishes, on and off, for about twenty years, which prevented heroic (and ultimately useless) measures she didn't want. [1] [2]

Most of these beads are made with 104, but some of the purple (& possibly slate blue?) ones are bullseye. 23feb2021, 1/30s, f/8.0, ev +1.0 ISO 200, panasonic DMC-LX100; cropped, identifying info masked, some dust cloned out

My mom was not at all a sentimental person, nor did she care for the sort of jewelry I made—really, by the end of her life she hardly bothered with it at all. She did seem moved by the beads I made for my dad's grave, so I always knew I would make beads for her as well. —I had thought for years that orange was her favourite colour, but she told me fairly recently, no, not really: I think actually she did have some fondness for it, or at least, less aversion than most USians, but honestly, colour just wasn't something to which she was terribly sensitive.

A chickadee doodle made while working on this project. You can see the influence of this drawing especially in the curve of the tail in the bead. The heart-doodle motif dates back to my college days—it's a fun little shape, and, in this case, very apropos.

She moved to the Lake Tahoe area with my dad when they retired, and she loved the hiking, kayaking and ski-ing, the 300 days of sunshine—the outdoors, basically, which she called her ‘little slice of heaven [on earth]’. I therefore chose the colours of the mountains and pines—blues, greens, and browns (& because it's me, purple, of course), starting on Valentine's Day with leaky pen, a “deep blue violet” and root beer. The one grey bead with white dots represents her bond with my father. Frances kindly made the our-father beads (the dotties) marking off the decades, using Double Helix artisanal glasses to add subtlety to colours as well as the aqua spot'n’streak in the dangle.

sketch for the order of mass, I think? Anyway, my sib much preferred this to the inked version, despite its problems w composition & weirdly shaped bird...this was more or less the original concept for the bead also.

A Catholic all her life (albeit a heretic, in that she didn't accept all of the dogma—the existence of heaven, for example) a rosary seemed appropriate, but I wanted something more celebratory and less macabre than a focal based on torture,[3] so I subbed in a chickadee: I have a picture of her with one on her hand, she used to go ski-ing on Lake Tahoe, and the chickadees are so tame they'll land on you, hoping for food. I wanted to put the lake and mountains representative of her home as well, but my skills weren't up to more than implying them with the colour scheme.

But such as it is, this represents in glass her conception of her ‘little slice of heaven’, and as it's entirely customary to bury people of her faith with rosaries wrapped around their hands, this is what we did. Despite being perfectly aware that she never prayed the rosary nor has any need of grave goods, I appreciated very much that I was able to do this, especially as I was unable to travel to neither the memorial (with her friends) nor the funeral (she was buried in the family plot with my father, his parents and sibs.)[4]

[1]If you love your heirs, and haven't already chosen a medical advocate, gotten your paperwork in order, and specified especially how your mementos are to be divided, please consider doing so. They will thank you again and again, and be eased, knowing they are carrying out your wishes: saying goodbye with all that is proper, instead of hurt feelings and resentment that come with things done poorly on top of loss.

[2] If you want to go all out, record the stories as to why this picture or that objet d'art is special—its family history, or whatever. I lost another relative on the wizard's side only about a week after my mom died—why yes, 2021 has been the suck, why do you ask? also very suddenly, who was only my own age, and ...that one died intestate, and as the keeper of the family stories, many of them are now lost.

[3]I get that Catholics consider the crucifix a symbol of redemption, but I'm not Catholic, so...

[4]Which honestly sucked. Such a relatively, little, unimportant thing, when so many have lost so very much more, but it still hurts, and I'm grateful, I guess, that I'm now too old for the kind of rage all the stupidity around this pandemic surely would have engendered in my younger days.