One year on. 365 days since I got the call. The one I had been dreading. July 1st, 2012 - 7am London time…my life changed inexplicably with just two little words. Seemingly so small and innocent but actually immensely huge and extremely powerful. “She’s gone”.
At first I felt calm. I have never felt so calm in my life. The calm very quickly turned to shock, horror, terror. I jumped in a cab with some money and a phone. No clothes, no toothbrush…I just ran. Airport….waiting….worst flight of my life. Arrived, saw my father’s face and I knew life as I had always known it would never be the same. The next morning I stood next to her lifeless body in complete disbelief, they put her in the ground. I remember thinking she looked so small as her body, wrapped only in bandages slipped into the ground, was covered in dirt. She was gone.
The cancer took hold at first very quietly and slowly. Like a silent demon lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce. At first it stole her excess energy, but my mother - the woman who never took no for an answer - didn’t let it get her down. Life continued as normal except for the weekly visits to the hospital for the day long chemo treatments. When the cancer took her hair several months later, she went out bought the best wig money could buy, got it cut and coloured as it had been before and continued on. She would draw on eyebrows before getting dressed in her favourite outfits and silk scarves to go out to parties with friends, as always. Her weekly manicures kept her feeling normal. The cancer treatments continued to eat away at her physical appearance. Her face and body began to bloat from the steroids. Her vision worsened. Her spirit began to wane, her energy was less and less. Everything became a struggle. She stopped cooking, stopped eating. The weakness and the depression took hold. In her last few weeks she stopped caring what she looked like. She stopped wearing the wig, she stayed in her pyjamas most days. I knew, although refused to really believe the end was near.
When my father found her that morning, her nails were still painted cherry red. The same colour she had painted them once a week since as far back as I can remember. That was my mom. Even when she decided she couldn’t take it anymore, didn’t care what she looked like anymore, even when she finally gave up, or rather, gave in to her destiny… her nails were still freshly painted.
Over the last two months, in the run up to today I have been working on some images to describe and depict the words I have just written. It’s the only way I feel I can really portray the pain and the sadness brought on by the events over the last few years of my life. I built the images on what I had learned many years ago about classic still life paintings. These paintings historically were meant to portray the abundance of life with fresh fruits, colourful flowers, sea shells, random manmade objects. In later years still life paintings would portray the futility of worldly life through the depiction of material decay-skulls, clocks, candles, etc.
This seemed the perfect way to be able to express what I have been feeling. My mother is gone and all I have left of her now are her belongings. Just things, objects. When I open her bottle of perfume, the one that she always wore, it’s as if she is standing right next to me. Her cherry red nail polish reminds me of her crazy obsession with having perfectly manicured nails. Her silk scarves and jewellery that she treasured and wore on special occasions are now mine to treasure. This is all I have left of my mother, my best friend, closest confidant, my number one fan. These images depict the rotting and decay of her body along side the objects that helped her continue to feel normal. They also depict the loneliness and sadness that she must have felt during her sickness and that I will feel every day for the rest of my life without her.
Gila Rachel Fachler
October 7, 1953-July 1, 2012