Antidotes to Fear of Death

I’ve been back at my Monday morning drawing class for the past couple of weeks following the mid-term break.  Today we were invited to bring in an object “constrained by form”  which speaks to us as an ‘antidote to the fear of death’.

I brought my mother’s wristwatch, one of the very few items I have that belonged to her.  It’s a Timex watch she bought from Long’s Drugstore when I was about 10.  Sometimes I wind it up and wear it.  It keeps more or less accurate time.

One of the gifts I claimed from the death of my mother, when I was 16, is the awareness of mortality.   When I got a little bit older, I was able to reflect on her life and I realised that she had waited until too late to start making positive decisions and choices based on her interests, well-being and desires.  Besides going to college at age 50 and leaving an unhealthy relationship with my father, I wondered what else she had left too late.  My mother died from cancer when she was 55.  At a very young age I decided that I did not want to follow in her footsteps and wait until it was too late for me to live my own life.

In a way, she gave me the gift of time which is symbolised by her wristwatch.

Anyhow, here is my drawing, followed by a poem which my drawing teacher read to us.


My mother’s watch, charcoal, 24 x 36cm, 2013

Antidotes to Fear of Death

Sometimes as an antidote

To fear of death,

I eat the stars.


Those nights, lying on my back,

I suck them from the quenching dark

Til they are all, all inside me,

Pepper hot and sharp.


Sometimes, instead, I stir myself

Into a universe still young,

Still warm as blood:


No outer space, just space,

The light of all the not yet stars

Drifting like a bright mist,

And all of us, and everything

Already there

But unconstrained by form.


And sometimes it’s enough

To lie down here on earth

Beside our long ancestral bones:


To walk across the cobble fields

Of our discarded skulls,

Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,

Thinking: whatever left these husks

Flew off on bright wings.


 – Rebecca Elson, 2001

My mother's watch

My mother’s watch


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