Friday, October 14, 2011

Tribute to My Mother

My mom, Joan Hospod, passed away this Monday from cancer. Her symptoms and pain were so advanced, and accelerating so fast it was a challenge to keep on top of even pain management, let alone treatment. She passed about an hour before my sister and I arrived at Hospice. However, I do try to keep in mind she had constant visits from all three of her children (including myself), and she may have wanted the quiet alone time in order to let go peacefully.

Joan had a rough start in life. When she was eight, her own mother died. Her preteen and teen years were not stable for her, as her family all struggled in their own ways with this loss. (She did make peace and maintained an adult friendship with her immediate family later in life.) She found that stability and comfort later through the sisterhood in the Catholic convent that she served in throughout her late teens to early thirties. Through trade of her hard work (particularly teaching the lower income children of Chicago through the Order of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament) she was able to earn a BA in Education from Loyola University.

After about twelve years Joan, though appreciative of the stability, order and education of her life in the convent, began to yearn for independence and also to start a family of her own. After much deliberation, she left on good terms. Through a childhood friend, she met and married Charles Hospod, an engineer at IBM. Soon after, she had three kids in a row: (one each subsequent year) John, myself, then Janice.

Though there were some external challenges to her steadfast commitment of homemaker, Joan took pleasure in being a mom and steady support to us kids. She also enjoyed her many pets, the lovely flowering and abundant tree lined neighborhood of Drexel Hill, reading, walking and occasional experimenting with art herself. She was quite talented. I remember her painting with oils when I was a little kid. When I was a teen and took Saturday and summer classes at Moore College of Art and Design, Mom also enrolled in separate life and basic drawing classes for adults, earning some considerable attention from the adult ed faculty. She even shared some tips that helped me breakthrough and loosen up with faster life drawing model poses, using Buddy the cat for a model.

When we grew up and out of the house, Mom stayed emotionally close and visited as much as possible. Joan took joy and pride from news about her granddaughter (my niece), Skye and her (soon to arrive) grandson. She took particular pleasure in visiting my sister in the DC area for extended vacations. They enjoyed many live comedy shows, operas, musicals, concerts, and restaurants together over this decade.

When she felt too ill to care for herself and her husband, my sister wholeheartedly opened her home to Mom, taking on the lion's share of the caregiving. There was also assistance and frequent visits from my brother and myself. Unfortunately, Mom barely settled in with Jan before we all realised she was too ill for treatment and needed the help of Hospice to make the final transition of her life.

We are heartbroken to have lost her.

Joan still exists in a period of time though we have moved beyond it. I like to think of her in her screened in breezy porch in late spring mornings, with her coffee, a good book, and some four footed furling of hers laying nearby. Maybe with one of us home to interupt and talk her ear off for awhile before going on with the day.

It was a comfort to work on Joan's urn. Oil paint marker on bronze. Classic Mom and all the critters she loved.


  1. Jeanne,
    This is the most moving and creatively powerful tribute I have ever seen.

    Your writing about Joan is eloquent and gracious. The painting on the urn is a combination of elements that rarely coincide: an artist experiencing a traumatic event, feeling intense emotion, and expressing it in a way that truly moves others. Being able to do so while in the moment, not in retrospect. Imagery that is a glowing tribute to a life, while also being a beckoning vision of an afterlife.

    I'm humbled, and wish that I had been able to do likewise when my father went into hospice.

    No parent has received a tribute more beautiful, one that communicates such fondness, playfulness, and respect. I'm certain that the moments with you, and the paintings you placed by her bedside, were the highlights of her final days.

  2. thank you so much, Monte. Painting this was healing in the raw days right after. I was anguished about just missing Mom's final moments when I flew back the final time. However, this was "something" I could do for her. Mom's ashes reside at my sister's apartment in Virginia in a shelf top display of artwork,photos and other mementos. Mom's visits to my sister were the highlight of her later years. It feels right for her remains to rest there.

  3. I have sat here for at least ten minutes after having read your loving story of your mother. Not only have your words touched a place deep in me, but also help me feel you and your art just a little bit better. For me your paintings move and pulse, and I glide with them into a feeling of wonderment and illumination. Your kittens sailing into the light thrill me every time, always. My mother too recently died. I understand also the complicated loss.

    My best wishes for you Jeanne.

    Sincerely, Heather M. Ivashin

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Heather. It means a lot to me that my work reaches out to you. My condolences about your mom. It is so hard to face, though the sting of loss does fade to a dull gentle ache. It's been almost a year.

    One of the most difficult aspects for me was that Mom wanted to protect us from the stress of her illness and did not disclose all what she knew of her condition, when she knew it. If she had, we may have been able to at least help her with choices be more comfortable and at peace in the end. That's such a protective mom thing of her to do; she had the best of intentions.

    This week I will be uploading a lovely watercolor I recently found at the empty homestead that my mom painted. It's a portrait of my sister, Janice. I have it on my facebook art page and its the most popular and wide reaching post of art on my site. Way to go, Mom!