Collateral Beauty

Mother and Child, Relationships, Soul searching

“Memories of my lost child” 2016. Sam Shendi

I have been struggling to write about this piece mainly because I have no experience of losing a child; for which I am thankful for. Nevertheless, it is my greatest fear and in some kind of cathartic practise when I embarked on writing a piece of fiction two years ago (which amounted in a huge number of words now sat festering in my computer’s memory) I made my central theme the idea of losing a child. With the idea of finding some sort of peace and resolve afterwards. However, I still feel a fraud and so perhaps that is why I can’t finish it.

Recently we watched a film, which reminded me that there is no original thought and my idea had almost already been explored-so good at making excuses. The film didn’t get good reviews but I loved it.  The idea of time, death and love personified. That our children come through us (I think that idea was probably taken from Gibran : see below) and that when someone dies, “be sure to notice the collateral beauty.”

On Children –Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Something traumatic in loosing someone through death, especially when they are young may take a lifetime to understand if ever. The concept of the film though is that in that dark and unhappy place there was still love. The beauty is that love continues even after and through death. Death reminds us that we need to be present in every moment because we have no control over our last.

I started to think of other meanings for this piece of work, not just “The memory of my lost child” to death but loosing a child just for a moment. I have experienced that and it is scary enough. It is hard to stop all the fears and worries that flood the mind. It led me to thinking about when parents feel they have lost their child to something else or someone else or somewhere else and how in the mind of the parent they think they have ‘lost’ their child. The complexity of the parent-child relationship is that they are so dependant on you and at each stage you are aware of them “moving away” becoming more independent. As a parent the need may seem to disappear but  the role changes and continually shifts.

The inspiration for this piece for my husband was a strong awareness of the impact the death of his cousin had on his Uncle. The story is tragic and traumatic causing a ripple within the family. This piece is a dedication of that event in my husband’s life but one that resonates with so many for their own individual reason.

However ‘whole’ you might appear the loss means there is always part of you missing. You are missing someone and that has an effect on your whole being.

lost child shafow

The things we lost in the fire


It’s that time of year, it is cold, it is icy. We retreat inwards. Many people I have spoken to of late seem to be struggling with the tests that life brings. If we compare the seasons to the life cycle then this is the season of death. The trees have now finally lost their leaves. There has been a sparkly ice coating over everything and snow in some places. We light candles, people stay warm by the fire. Fire. The element of comfort and destruction. Last night the fire raged havoc over Damside Mill.

“Damside Mill is a furniture workshop,studio and gallery in Haworth. The last working part of the old Lees Mill, it has been brought back to life by Anthony and the Damside team as a place where high quality designer furniture is created, while upholstery and furnishing courses are run in the studio, with an evolving programme of contemporary art and design in the gallery. It is a growing marketing platform for associated artists to promote and sell their work, and just a great place to visit in Haworth.”

Anthony Hartley  and his partner Nel and the rest of the team had spent vast quantities of time, effort and finances developing the Mill, finally reaching an opening earlier in the year which I blogged about. This morning it stood charred with the internal damage the heat from the fire. In stark contrast to the cool and icy hills of Haworth behind it.

Most importantly no one was inside, so no one was hurt and ultimately that is the most important thing. However, all that effort, hard work has been turned to ash. Equipment has been damaged and a large skip has already been filled with the debris. A deathly and destructive force has swept through and taken everything.

It isn’t the first time we have lost work. We moved house and successfully moved a huge amount of clay sculptures. Then one evening we heard an almighty crash and the table which we had placed them all on broke and not one of them was left in tact. Today, my husband was unable to see the full extent of the damage as it was dark and they were all tinged shades of grey. They are not totally lost.

The ice will melt, the leaves will  grow back and spring follows and brings with it new hope, new creativity, new life. There is always someone else suffering, working through hardship, grieving a loss. Our perspective, attitude and outlook all greatly determine how we deal with the challenges life throws at us. I can easily go down the pessimistic, negative view-point. It is always in situations like this when I am not directly effected that I learn that others have such courage and strength. My Husband is always uncharacteristically calm and measured in these moments, he is very accepting of his fate, when situations are beyond his control. Nothing is lost. Courage and strength can overcome. Buildings, material objects, money can all be re-done, re-made, re-worked. Nobody was lost in the fire.

‘ My husband and sculptures in Damside Mill'

‘ My husband and sculptures in Damside Mill’