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Perspectives

Mother, After

Lindsay Stripling

"on her face like / Renoir / might have painted"

Just before
I dipped
into sleep
she appeared
on the canvas
of my eyelids—
tranquil joy
on her face like
Renoir
might have painted,
light dappling
around and through her.

Even when the brush
had to be tied to Renoir’s
bent and failing hands,
Beauty drew through them
as my mother—even beyond—
cannot help but be who she is.

From Mothershell by Andrea Potos. © Andrea Potos and reprinted by permission of Kelsay Books.

I had asked my mother for a sign.

Two weeks after her passing, I was relaxing on our back deck, enjoying the stillness and warmth of the summer afternoon. As often happens, I started to doze off, and suddenly there she appeared—etched distinctly behind my closed eyelids. I had never seen such pure joy on her face. She was palpably herself, I thought, and happier! I felt moved and grateful to experience this connection with her in so sudden and surprising a fashion.

Later, I remembered the vintage, scratchy film of Auguste Renoir painting at the Art Institute of Chicago some years back. I have always been drawn to Renoir. The film showed him in his old age, his hands terribly twisted and crippled with arthritis; he was still painting beauty. He too, no matter the circumstances, was still himself. I loved discovering this parallel between Renoir and my mother—whether in human life or beyond, neither could become less then who they truly are. I don’t think any of us can.

From Mothershell by Andrea Potos. © Andrea Potos and reprinted by permission of Kelsay Books.