13.5 cm x 14 cm x 1.5 cm

© copyright Brangwynne Purcell


Patricia “But years of toil still remained before her”

The mother I never knew was my husband’s. Her’s was a story left untold, it’s details obscured by years of loss & burial. Her children, all tender aged, at the time of her passing had little at their disposal to reveal or unravel that which was their mother’s rich & loving life. Her private musings & secret heart, all but lost to her children.

And while this mother’s story was at times obscured by missing parts, I couldn’t help but feel a kinship with her. She, like me, was brought to this western Canadian waterfront by her husband; the promise of a better life. The man’s leading, following that still.small.voice of a dream. Taken thousands of miles from her homeland, that of foremothers & fathers; taken from the only family she knew, with three small children in tow. She followed for love, in hope & faith.

I have wondered often over the years, if our hearts [heavy with familial loss] have not been mysteriously & beautifully entwined. And has she not been alongside this wayfaring daughter all these years, helping me to navigate this chosen exile in this foreign land? In inexplicable ways I have felt imbued by her strength, faith & perseverance. And has she not born celestial witness to her life’s hard work: her love laid down, acting now as a foundation for her children? Her second son, well wed to this woman who loves & adores him more than life. The next generation [which I bore] blossoming in her grandchildren. I feel in small ways, I am helping to live her legacy.

While my own family shares a myriad of stories & a willing slew of storytellers, here, among the in-laws I was at a loss. And so, over the decades I have tried, piece by piece to find her. Few artifacts remained, or so we thought, only words whispered from long-ago friends here & there. A book with an inscription. A sense of her, a heart felt belief of the deep & abiding character that this woman possessed.

And then we found it: the treasure trove revealed. As the family house & belongings were trolled & culled following the death of the father - there, buried among boxes were the infinitesimal artifacts & ephemera that make up a life. Letters of love & life, photos, slides, receipts, books & blankets; a relative Mary Poppins’ carpet bag of wonders. The child, opening an attic trunk, filled with awe & wonder at what she didn’t know was lost. And in the finding, understands things she only once dreamed.

This piece incorporates a whisper of that other world, lost decades ago & now found.

~ Brangwynne Purcell