On God, eulogies and 'Desperate Housewives'
Reader, lover, friend and brother - how I have missed you so! Open arms spread broadly, I draw you into a perfumed embrace. I hold you tight.
I’m thinking about God. When Death traverses through the hospital door, scythe prepared to swing and sever, all sense disintegrates before me. Let alone “Why did this happen?”, why did this happen to me, devastatingly so? Moons ago and even now as I type, I sit forlorn at work, eyes flickering to Renaissance art of Christ in the arms of a virgin. I feel no faith, no holy light, only reluctance towards his bulbous eyes, his pallid complexion, his sinewy limbs.
Bengt Ekerot as Death in The Seventh Seal (1957) dir. Ingmar Bergman.
I remember in my younger years being regimentally stood reciting William Blake’s Romantic epic Jerusalem, to organ music. And did those feet in ancient times / Walk upon England’s mountains green? I remember being told vague details of God being this all-knowing, all-seeing mystic creator of all living things - a benevolent force. I remember a love for a girl emanating from my heart and kneeling at the foot of my bed praying for that feeling to leave me, in fear of Hell (suffice to say, it never left).
“Why God?” you ask, dear reader. I want truth. I want meaning and purpose, for my Dad simply can’t have died for nothing. Sixty-seven years for nothing. Was that God’s plan? I feel a ripening rage - my blood boils and spurts like molten lava. Why was I birthed into the universe, to suffer and to struggle, to fear old age, disease and death? If this is living, take it from me, baby, I don’t want it.
I want belonging. A connection to the Beyond - a golden thread of light to pull me through the turgid darkness… but I just can’t believe. With the sum of my flesh and bones and bodily fluids, calling out into that abyss, I can’t bring myself to believe without feeling like a fraud. Where the fuck does the ‘spirit’ go? Was there even one to begin with? How can I be stood over this hospital bed, looking at a man both here and not here? How many times in my life will I bear witness to this tragedy, for one day it to become my turn?
I don’t think I can do that again, I refuse.
Marilyn Monroe as Nell Forbes in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) dir. Roy Ward Baker.
In painting I find stillness. I CAN FEEL A BIG CRY COMING ON is finally complete. To paint, I have to kneel in prayer. A mass of pink silk is laid out before me atop brutal concrete. I soak in the silence and, with brush to oil, I tarnish. It is an equally frustrating and rewarding process. Quite meditative. Isolate yourself in a room, commit to a work and notice how clear your emotions are. How’s your breathing?
From the 19th May through to 25th September, the eulogy I wrote for my Dad’s funeral is on display here. ‘Here’, believe it or not, is the gallery in my hometown I visited almost every weekend as a child. My Dad, ever grafting, never went inside. There is a bittersweet potency to this experience, in knowing that he cannot be here to see it, but I couldn’t have done it without him. Instead he becomes mythologised, culturally embedded into our local histories. Whenever people ask of the work (what, how, why?), I simply state that this was during a period where, Depression-bound, I had ceased to think of art, let alone produce it.
To submit an artwork about romance or sex or something sordid wouldn’t have felt right, knowing that throughout that period all I could feel was a gaping hole piercing straight through my aortic valve. My heart is still hot to the touch.
In truth, I feel that the more I speak of Dad (1954-2022), the more I refer to him in the Now, the longer he stays alive. I’ve encountered, recently, a fresh dilemma - forgetting the sound of his voice. It plagues me to think about it. Knowing, I think, that this would eventually happen (Google ‘anticipatory grief’), one drab weekday evening after boiling the kettle in the kitchen I knew - I just knew. Sliding my phone from my pyjama pocket, I hit record and hover silently around the corner from the living room door, just listening.
His voice is frail, but living.
Lara Flynn Boyle as Donna Hayward in Season 1, Episode 1 of Twin Peaks (1990-1991), dir. David Lynch.
To quell the sadness, I’ve been watching Desperate Housewives (2004-2012). A soap opera parody which in turn becomes a soap of its own, is reminiscent in many ways of Lynch’s ‘90s cult classic Twin Peaks. Eccentric neighbours, violent husbands and WASP women exuding glamour and restraint. A dead body crushing prize-winning peonies. Its Valley of the Dolls with a Cath Kidston frill, prescription pills and all. In watching Christian ‘soccer moms’ solve murders, trawling through the True Crime sub-Reddit ritualistically, I wonder, why am I drawn to tragedy? What makes tragedy so compelling?
Then my head hurts and I feel agitated. Perhaps ignorance is bliss. So I slouch in bed and let my brain melt into mush while Bree Van de Kamp, brows pencilled and lips pursed, confronts her weedy husband about why he won’t sleep with her. Nothing’s real, anyway.
As my Dad would say, “I’ll love you and leave you.”