I recently wrote a eulogy for my grandmother’s funeral. I naturally described her through her treatment of and impact on others. Ethel; seen and shaped by the perception of others, defined by the needs and desires of others, tethered to the reality and history of others. This anchor, this beacon, was, I realized, a facade of whatever we needed her to be. And I began to wonder, inside this sense of self we’d created for her, if perhaps she sat still and pondered the parts of her that remained unseen, untouched, and undefined.
The temporal nature of our time here felt so clear to me in her company. I wanted to try to sit inside her stillness, to hover adjacent to her, as somehow seeing what she saw might inform me of all she left hidden behind her sense of service. I wanted to let her surroundings settle into their own histories as she dissolved into them, to find evidence of life persevering where it seemed most unlikely to survive.
She was unaccustomed to revealing her own truths. I remained sensitive and took care not to exploit her or trespass on her integrity. She took great pride in her composure. As her health declined I chose to use my time with her to engage directly rather than to make this work. Much like life itself, this work will always be unfinished, unresolved and incomplete. It is difficult to capture complete stillness. There is no definitive mark of existence. There is only a period of having lived, that when you look at it, as if it was a thing all along, it remains, here, still, a life.