Grief, Death and Funerals: For Those Left Behind

Two years ago, my uncle died. A beloved past-minister, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, son, and so on. He was well known in many communities of people. When I called my mother to ask about the funeral arrangements, she informed me there would not be one. I was really upset to hear this. It was because the family, with his knowledge, had felt that they did not want to do this. They didn’t want a bunch of commotion. I was furious with this but my words could not be heard because his family are people that when they make a decision, they are not detracted.

As a psychotherapist, who deals with death and dying quite frequently from survivors who come into my office, I know the importance of grief. A funeral is not for the dead, it is for the living. It is for the people who love the departed one and who need to come together in memorial of this person to “sing” their praises. When you deny a funeral from your loved one’s and those who knew of you, you are keeping them from being in congregation with one another and withholding their ability to have closure.

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Frida Kahlo – Legendary Artist

Art should be regarded as a spiritual experience for when you find a piece that you like, it is speaking to your soul. When I first met a Frida Kahlo, I was in a university class that had to do with Women in Art (I don’t recall the specific title).  Our professor showed us a piece of her work and I asked the teacher if she had been in some type of an accident and explained what I saw in the photo of the painting. She told us a little about the history of Frida Kahlo and I felt stung. Until that moment, my experience was usually to look at paintings in a museum and admire them. While I had been to many art museums and had my favorites, I had never been this moved by art.

Since then, I have begun to look at art differently. I have begun to focus on the picture and think about the symbols, the way they are arranged, and what the artist might have felt. I have also seen the movie of Frida by Selma Hayek, read the biography by Hayden Herrera, had a friend copy a painting by Frida so that I could have my own genuine recreation and I have had friends give me books and old magazine articles that are about the artist and her paintings. When you research someone to this depth, you become one with the artist.

Frida Kahlo painted portraits and recreated interpretations of her life on canvas the way we journal in a diary now. The intensity of her work began after she was in a “bus” accident in Mexico at the age of 18. To explain, a bus in the 1920’s in Mexico was similar to a hay wagon with benches nailed along the sides.  This old fashioned mechanism collided with a streetcar which threw her and others from the bus and caused her to have many almost fatal injuries. She spent much of her life in body casts, laid out on a bed. She also underwent many surgeries for this over the years before she died at 47. Frida was a survivor and from her bed she began to paint, not for the first time but in a new way.

The first opportunity she was able to get out of her bed, it was the same time that Diego Rivera, a well-known Mexican painter, was working on a mural nearby her home. They met and eventually married. Señor Rivera  was known for his philandering but she knew this and asked, not for his fidelity but for his loyalty. He accepted. Their marriage was full of liaisons; hers with both men and women. They lived in two homes joined by a bridge so that each had their own space. Unfortunately, it was here where Señor Rivera went a bit too far with his affairs and slept with her sister Cristina. Between this and her on-going setbacks to give birth to their child, which her doctors had explained would be impossible; their marriage began to go downhill. They continued to remain together though, until her end.

Both Señora Kahlo and Señor Rivera, were very passionate about communism as well. This was incorporated in their art work depicting laborers in Mexico. Their beliefs were controversial, even then but they fought continuously to try and bring this philosophy to their country.

It is quite doubtful that Señora Kahlo and I would have been friends had we met during that time. When you are captivated by a piece of work, it is not about likes or dislikes of personal opinions.  Art stands alone, though it captures that person’s beliefs and feelings, what you gain from this is not always going to be the same. I was intrigued by her work as a woman, as a survivor, her bravery, her determination and will. All of these qualities I saw on the canvas and all of these adjectives she would probably have brushed aside indignantly. People like this do not want accolades for anything except their work, not their essence of being.

What I became fascinated with, when I learned about Señora Kahlo’s history, was her homage to ancestry through her clothing. While she was both Hungarian and Mexican, she only knew of her Spanish cultural ways. Her father’s Hungarian parents immigrated to Germany before sending their son to Mexico as a young man. While in Mexico, he married her mother and never returned to his homeland. She only had an idea of what her grandparents looked like. The way Señora Kahlo dressed herself was not indicative of the times in Mexico and so when she travelled with her husband, it was often seen as odd or eccentric. Now it is how one would recognize her through photos, though her work is quite obvious once you have had the opportunity to view a few pieces. As a woman she made a statement. Quite literally she was a work to behold. A piece of art always in progress.

While travelling in Mexico, I noticed that far too many shopkeepers hold vigil to her in their windows; along with homage to their religious symbols as well. Even in America, many Mexican restaurateurs will display her reproductions around their diners. Frida Kahlo is a legend. If you have not had the chance to explore her work, I invite you to research the name and see where it leads you.

Women of Exceptional Taste

Women of exceptional taste in todays society are multi-faceted. They are sophisticated, successful in a career, have good taste in clothing, don’t use plastic surgery (if over 40), are involved in various philanthropic efforts and are admired by women around the world. Some of these women speak more than one language a commendable trait.  Many of them have children or grandchildren as well and this is an aside. What is remarkable about our generation is that these type of women can now choose not to have children or wait until they are ready to have children.

Judi DenchJudi Dench began her profession in 1957 and has been on stage, TV and movies in the United Kingdom, as well as a crossover or two in the U.S.

 

 

 

Catherine Deneuve has delighted French audiences since 1957 as well. She was once considered the most beautiful woman of the world and yet all the women here are in this category.

 

 

Amal Clooney is an International Forensic Attorney that has been in practice since 2000.

 

 

 

 

The Duchess of Cambridge came to our attention around 2007 though it was in 2011 when she began to hold her title. She is involved in a great many philanthropic adventures but of particular interest is mental health.

 

 

 

 

 

Helen Mirren began her career on stage, TV and film in 1966, in the United Kingdom. Like Ms. Dench, has crossed over into U.S. films as well.

 

 

 

Penelope Cruz began a career in Spain in 1989. She has been a model, as well as acting on television and film. Her work has also crossed over into the United States. She is thought to be the muse for the Director, Pedro Almodóvar

 

Meryl Streep has been an American actress since 1971 and has crossed over into films around the world, not speaking the language but being known for an ability to take on various accents.

 

 

Salma Hayek is from Mexico and has been involved as an actress, producer, and model. She produced the “Ugly Betty” TV series in the United States and starred as well as produced the film “Frida.” You can find her in both Spanish and English roles.

 

 

Queen Noor Of Jordan. An American woman who once reigned until her husband, Hussein of Jordan died (1978-1999).

 

 

 

 

Isabel Allende is an Author from Chile who has brought us a couple of dozen novels. One of these novels, “The House of Spirits,” was brought to the screen in the United States in 1982.

 

 

These are merely a sample of women of exceptional taste from around the world. Certainly a great many more that are not well known but who forge careers and are worthy of great merit here yet may not be seen in the public eye. A couple of the women noted here would not even be known had they not married a “celebrity,” and yet their careers are what brought them into view of that person of interest.