Live, Die: A Ghazal – Muske-Dukes

About two weeks ago, my grandmother passed away of natural causes (not Covid-related) at 102 years old. Her funeral was held last week amongst continuing coronavirus restrictions and the pastor noted that she was born during one pandemic (the 1918 Spanish Flu) and died during another – but that this isn’t what defines her, or anyone’s life.

Since she died, I keep coming back to this poem by Carol Muske-Dukes – maybe because my grandmother lingered in a semi-conscious state for almost a week before she died, maybe because it describes so accurately how we didn’t know how to let her go. I had done this drawing as a response to the poem 4 years ago – and when I went back and looked at it last week, it felt unfinished. Now that I had a face to go with the poem, I added the details and shadows it needed. I also added the final words of the poem onto the drawing directly, to fix them there permanently.

If you’d like to read the whole poem, which was part of a series of art-poem collaborations at The New York Times Style Magazine, you can go here.

My original post is here.

12 comments

  1. The unfinished work finds a perfect end, while the unfinished feelings are preserved. I have a similar loss (also my grandmother) that more than a year later still seems fresh. My sincere condolences, Marcy, and thank you for sharing Carol Muske-Dukes’ poetry.

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    1. Thank you, Sunshine. When I received the call that she had died, I had this almost overpowering urge to go find that drawing, and I was suddenly scared I didn’t have it any more (couple of moves and a toddler later…very possible it was gone) – my subconscious mind had connected them long ago. A year is not that long – I am sorry for your loss.

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  2. I’m so sorry for your loss, Marcy. And knowing she had such a long life doesn’t really make losing her any easier. I’ve seen my own mom and dad pass away, lingering, even though they were both of advanced age and quite ready, themselves. There’s still no way to know how to let them go, until they’re gone. This image is so powerful. As someone told me once, never underestimate the transformative power of art.

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    1. Thank you, Jilanne. Exactly – she was totally ready and began refusing food and water – but we weren’t ready. Coming back to this drawing (finding I even still had it and it was in good shape after a couple of moves!) has helped me grieve.

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  3. Just a few words that say so deeply what is hardest about death. And the image illuminates the words.
    I am so sorry. There is no good or easy time or place for letting go. (K)

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    1. Thank you, Kerfe. It’s true – we just didn’t know how – this poem has given me words for that feeling, though, and that has been comforting.

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    1. Thank you, Claudia. She really did – even the pastor was saying he hadn’t personally presided over a service for someone who had lived so long.

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