by Jennifer Carpenter
Inspiration seems to ebb and flow, presenting itself on a whim. Encouragement and motivation can be equally illusive. Many of us search for it when we feel creative juices have evaporated into thin air. In this instance, inspiration found me when it was the last thing I was looking for one warm October afternoon, and continues to send encouragement whenever the windows are open.
Not many people know the story behind my colored pencil drawing entitled, End of Time Flies, so I have to share that in order for this story to make any sense. It was October 10, 2012. My brother, my dad's companion and I were all gathered around dad's bed in the nursing home. It was the day we knew he was going to die. Always too hot in the rooms, we opened the window to let in the breeze. With it, came a fly. One of those big obnoxious ones, common in farm country where I grew up. It kept landing on dad's knee and we all took turns shooing it away. It just seemed wrong, right? In an effort to lighten the mood of the impending event, we decided that fly was Mom, as she would have liked to have been a fly on the wall; she hated missing anything of any relevance where family was concerned. After that no one had the nerve to kill it! She was persistent and resisted our attempts to get her to leave the same way she had entered. We were all present in the moment when dad breathed his final breath.
Days later at Dad's funeral as I walked across the cemetery parking area towards the grave site, a fly landed on my chest and it made me giggle inside....hi Mom. As the small, brief service went on and tears were about to commence, I looked at Dad's closed casket and there on the far end away from the opening of the mausoleum...sat a fly, perched on the lid. I could imagine it being Mom, pushing Dad with all her might into his awaiting spot where they will spend eternity parallel parked. I turned to my left and looked one row back until my brother's eyes met mine and I mouthed the words, “There's a FLY! ON DAD'S CASKET!!!” It took every ounce of our being to hold it together and keep from laughing. We are a unique family. Laughter would have been encouraged in this intimate gathering, but those who had given us our warped sense of humor had earned their wings...literally?
Afterwards, I returned to my quiet house two hours away where very few knew of my loss or my return. There were no hugs, no flowers, no ham biscuits...only silence and an emptiness the steady stream of memories could never fill. I went to my studio, wanting to be alone in my loneliness. I made my rounds, flipping on lights, checking the plants, lighting some candles, filling the cat food bowl...and there it was...a dead fly, belly up. It made me laugh. We often joked how mom was surely enjoying her time in Heaven while dad continued to try our nerves here on Earth. Unbeknownst at the time, each of us three kids had visited the cemetery before dad passed to secretly let mom know dad was on his way, he'd be there soon. I felt like that was my sign he had made it. Sorry if that offends anyone, but you would have had to have known my mom. She had an enormous sense of humor and truly believed she would come back and visit us from time to time in one form or another. We found comfort in that. It would be like her to pick something like a fly. A photo shoot of the dead fly on a mirror and that drawing were the result of this crazy shade of grief.
That brings me to today...I spent the day working my shift at the gallery in Floyd and there was a FLY the size of a small plane! This fly had from 11-5 to come and go as it pleased, but it never left. Multiple times it got in my hair. I feared when I spoke to customers it would swoop into my mouth! While washing windows on the door, I saw something out of the corner of my eye on my shoulder, thought it was a stink bug, then realized...it was that FLY, ON my shoulder, IN the hallway leading into the gallery. Again, I giggled. Hi Mom. So finally I settled into my drawing at the register with a sense that my parents were pleased, proud, and still encouraging, and the rest is, well....hi Mom.
Jennifer Carpenter received her BA from Bridgewater College in 1987. She is a charter member of the Colored Pencil Society of America. Her colored pencil work has appeared in multiple books and magazines., and can be seen on her Facebook Art Page: JPCarpenterArt, or follow her on Instagram @jpcarpenter_coloredpencil.