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A Gift of Remembrance

December 28, 2009

Flower study by Catherine (Kitty) Grafflin (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) I first met Kitty in the early 1980s, when her son Dennis and I both joined the faculty of a Maine college and became good friends. Kitty was a delightful person to get to know; she had a generous spirit, a vibrant personality, and a lively intelligence. When we saw one another, our conversations ranged widely from current events and politics to books we had read to music and art. It was she who first introduced me to Jane Langton’s delightful detective novels. She had an advanced degree in literature and a strong creative bent; at an earlier point in her life, she had written children’s literature. Throughout her life, she drew and sketched, often illustrating the margins of letters she wrote. She also expressed her creativity in gardening and loved flowers; but because I was not a gardener at that point in my life, I never took advantage of what she might have taught me.

When she was in her early eighties, Kitty was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and her children were forced to make the difficult decision to sell her house, rehome her beloved but unruly dog, and move her into an assisted living facility. I visited her there shortly after she moved in, but our conversation was strained as she had to ask me over and over again where I was currently living and working. Because I felt that this was distressing to her, I never went back to visit again. (Although, in hindsight, it may be that I was the one distressed by the conversation.) By the time Kitty died, she could no longer remember who she was or had been.

Fortunately, those who knew and loved her could remember. When she died, she left behind dozens of her sketches and drawings. This year, her son went through these and picked out a dozen of the best to have matted and framed; and he honored me with one of these as a Christmas gift. What a wonderful gift! With this lovely work of art now hanging on my living room wall, I not only have a remembrance of Kitty, but I also feel as though we are having that conversation about gardens and flowers that we didn’t have twenty years ago.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2009 1:27 pm

    What a lovely, lovely gift!

    Conversations with an Alzheimer’s patient is very tiring. My best times with my late half-sister was when we said poems. I would supply a first line of something very, very old and familiar, she could fill in all my blanks. Singing was something she held on to until near the last, as well.

  2. December 28, 2009 1:28 pm

    What a wonderful gift indeed!

    I am so sorry about the loss of your friend. There are just certain people we meet in life that touch us in some way that we can never forget. Thank you for sharing Kitty’s artwork with us.

  3. December 28, 2009 4:32 pm

    Jean,
    What a wonderful post, and such a beautiful gift to bring forth memories of a dear friend. My father suffers from dementia, and I know all too well how difficult it is to stand before someone you know, and hardly be able to recognize that person. Like my father, I hope that Kitty was blessed with some good days, and could remember some of her past, and what was important to her. Thank you for sharing this lovely story and artwork of a dear friend.

  4. December 28, 2009 4:51 pm

    What a lovely legacy from a dear friend Jean! You must have been delighted to have been given such a gift and I imagine that the giving of it must have given Kitty’s son great pleasure too.

  5. December 28, 2009 5:28 pm

    What a special way to remember the special woman she was and the time you spent with her. It is ironic that you were given such a beautiful gift to remember her by, while she forgot who she was. She will live on in the memories of those who were special to her.

  6. December 28, 2009 6:12 pm

    What beautiful and special gift. Kitty’s son has honored her in a way that would surely have pleased her.

  7. December 28, 2009 10:21 pm

    What a lovely story. How wonderful that your friend’s son was so unselfish that he would share his mother’s art with you. How wonderful that your friend had such a talent, that gazing at her art can wrap you in her friendship now and forever. Such a lovely gift.

  8. December 29, 2009 12:02 pm

    This post was very touching. What a cherished gift.
    Cindee

  9. December 29, 2009 7:57 pm

    That is a very bitter sweet story Jean. So touching! A lovely way to remember and honor your friend. I love the colors and whimsicalness of her work. Best Wishes for the New Year! Carol

    • Jean permalink*
      December 29, 2009 9:07 pm

      Thank you all for your appreciative comments on this post. I do want to clarify the nature of my friendship with Kitty. I think I may have inadvertently given the impression that we were very close friends. We were not, although I did like her very much. My close friendship is with her son, Dennis, and I got to know her through my friendship with him. I think he gave me his mother’s drawing not so much to give me a remembrance of her but to share his own memories with someone who knew her. I am very touched and honored by the gift.

  10. December 30, 2009 6:25 am

    Your post in honor of your friend’s mother was a wonderful way to commemorate her.

  11. December 30, 2009 11:41 am

    I love the story and the artwork, and how gardens and art can serve as points of connection in what might otherwise be a very large and disconnected world. Thank you for sharing!

  12. December 30, 2009 6:37 pm

    Jean that was a lovely story. How wonderful for you to now have a piece of Kitty hanging in your living room. That was really nice of her son.

    Have a lovely 2010.

    FlowerLady

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