Doing too Much to Overcome the Loss of my Dear Mother/ A sort of Choose Your Own Adventure Essay/Novel Where You Can Choose the Dark Path or the Light Filled Humorous Path

Essay by Luke Foster

I am at the airport in Manilla the Phillipines and after only a few wafts of sleep I am feeling very vague and tired as the leg from JFK was 16 hours. I am on my way home from New York. With a 14-hour stopover I feel ridiculously tired and realised how much I have been pushing myself with my creativity to avoid dealing with the mind-numbing trauma of my mother’s passing. However, to put things in perspective and not to be too melodramatic, all parents who have kids go through sleepless nights all the time and this is just a one off for me and soon I shall be sleeping long and deep in my own bed, before beach walks in paradise, before I write and draw for the rest of the day.

Mum died around this time last year while I was in Europe but it was a bit earlier around mid-January and I got the news at the airport in Rome on the way to Athens from my brother Mark. I raced to the bathroom feeling I was going to throw up but I couldn’t. I just had this horrible disconnected feeling and couldn’t cry. It’s been over a year now and I still haven’t cried once. It’s not like I am not the crying type. At the end of Titanic movie I cried, at the end of the Moulin Rouge movie I cried and when my best friend Nick died at 17, I was not crying but weeping. When my grandmother died, I wept for around one hour.

But what have I done: I have filled this big vortex of sadness, loss and anxiety with cathartic creativity. I have released a book of almost two hundred pages of creativity after my beloved mum called Mothers Love last year, after six or seven stages of editing it. I had a solo show called Conceptual Art Mash Up at Kirra Hill and a solo show of photos and video and books of drawings in Sydney at Scratch Space and then a studio residency in Australia at the Big Ci and on the way home today from a residency at Mothership in Brooklyn New York. Also a few other small international group exhibitions. So, the silver lining is that I have had a nice run of in-depth focused creativity.

So, I have done all this manic activity sometimes but also measured productive creativity sometimes to avoid having a gaping, hole of loss and emptiness where my mother loved and gave me wise advice. And also humour which was mums best personal trait. She was a strong kind wise mother, a loving grandmother and a very gifted school teacher.

For the last three years of her life, I gradually increased my role in her life as her career, and that is perhaps why I have found it hard to grieve properly as because I was her career, I had to be strong for her and not show the fear and anxiety of knowing the inevitable of what would happen. However, I also excelled mainly as her carer and not with just the practical things of cooking, mowing the lawn, taking the rubbish out and sitting outside her bathroom when she showered so I could be there if she fell. However, I made her feel loved as I quite often kissed her on the forehead and said “love you mum”. She loved novels so I would get ten at a time for her from the op shop when I worked there two days a week and were only $2 each.

Then as her falls became more regular, it was kind of a relief in the end that my brother moved her to a nursing home in Mona Vale, Sydney around the corner from where he lived and I had to rent a tiny studio apartment at Cabarita where I did my two hours beach walking a day. After one particularly bad fall after her sister’s husband’s funeral at the airport in Orange that she broke her hip. I ended up flying to Sydney the year before last to visit her for a few days at a time in her nursing home with around 8 trips. I can’t remember exactly. However, these are the memories I treasure and while I was in the city, I would have cheap Japanese for dinner and go to my favourite bookstore Kinokunya and browse for a long time.

However, it was a nice send off in a way as my brother called me the day before my 50th birthday and said the doctors had given her only a few days to live. So, I quickly booked a flight and had five days of sitting with mum for hours reminiscing and me kissing her on the forehead saying “love you mum”.

Well, I guess I am starting to know what I need to do from here and that’s not follow on what I did in New York where I went to bed before midnight and slept until around 2 in the afternoon, but that’s only because I was exhausted. Now after I get home, I shall do lots of gentle whimsical humorous drawings rather than edgy abrupt ones. I want to get back into my exercise regime starting at 8am and beach walk until 10 and use my blue stainless-steel mug for lattes and decaf ice lattes. I have been having my coffees in paper cups which isn’t sustainable while I was in New York. No more than two caffeine drinks a day.

I need to reach out to my carers and have kind but honest conversations with my closest friends. But most of all I need to keep my sense of humour.

I need to reduce my creative output and eat well after two small solo shows in my local regional area after the few weeks back from America. The shows are all ready to be hung thankfully so once they are up: I can chill.

I reckon I have put on at least five kilos since travelling to New York. Oh well I always do this when I travel and burn it off again when I go beach walking. However, I am just editing this essay now that I am home and thankfully my weight hasn’t changed.

The head in bandages and jagged text come out of my grieving process.
This word summarises what I think when I sum up my mother. I showed this at open day at the Big Ci in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. It’s also how I feel about the Dalai Lamas philosophy.

In conclusion then, my long-term projects after a chill six months are a residency for two weeks in Tasmania and then a residency in Fukuoka Japan in March 2025. As much as I love the lure of the big cities in the world particularly for their art museums, I find it better to stay in the country for more of a meditative art during residencies. I am also in a few international art shows. These are kind of possible without me going to the country or the opening due to the internet. Another project is a new series of essays that I have pretty much completed enough for a second book but I am not sure weather its just best to keep them on my website. Then after the residency in Tassie or maybe before I have three video/photo shoot ideas which are so fun to shoot with Yanick Soyez as my documenter.