Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture

Friday, March 31, 2017

First Do No Harm

I always stood first in line when it came to size order. I was called every name under the sun about my size but the world through my view was keen. 

There was always change in my grandfather’s pockets. CERTS in my step- father’s. I could only see the sky through the crowd when we went to the Feast of San Gennaro. But the best of all, I stood as high as Dr. J’s knees when I met him and I was so proud to shake his hand, standing “tall.”

My step- mother was someone who was entirely unpredictable and though I was a considered a “runt,” I vowed to protect myself at an early age. 

What I didn’t understand then, was that she was the one who needed protecting.

She threatened to kill herself regularly. And in so doing, she tried to kill little pieces of my young self through her language and her lashings. 

She waged a war inside my family. One that had begun 40 years earlier in my father’s motherland. It was a wound that I alone was determined to repair no matter the cost.
As a child I could not comprehend the violence. The drugs. The alcohol. The assaults. But when my father crossed over, something opened in me so unbearably deep.

This woman had been my father’s consigliere for over 25 years and was the last person to hear him breathe. They were both suffering. They held something sacred that I knew nothing of. And the truth is, she was lost. 

Love was the higher law. 

I became her lifeline for 3 months and then she took her own life.

Today I was shopping for groceries and on one of the shelves there was an open box cutter. I placed it on one of my canvas re-usable bags and brought it to customer service. I told them where I had found it and said I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. “First do no harm is a rule I live by.” I said.

I thought about all of those I knew who had taken their own lives. All who had tried. All who could have stolen that sharp blade in a moment of desperation. All who don’t have someone to call or run to in such a moment. 

I bowed to the losses. I bowed to the love. I cried to and for the grieving. I sang for the living. 

Years ago, a colleague of mine wrote something that I have carried with me since my father crossed over. How poignant that it was about death. Today, I find it more powerful and relevant than ever:

“You asked me in your last letter, ‘Is there ever an end to mourning? Are we ever finished with our grief?’

Lately I’ve come to think there is. It happens in a moment of recognition, we find something of the lost person in ourselves and suddenly we feel stronger, wiser, more human.

There is still much silence in me but I am no longer frightened by it.
We must continue to write about life, not death, and, in the weeks and months to come, God willing, there will be much to tell.” Maureen Carey

This is for all of us. For anyone you know who may be in struggle. 

Let love be the sacred law.


Jill Bacharach

Sunday, March 19, 2017

My Home

I'm not an electrician. But I give everything my all. I have at least 5 tape measures, some good hammers and I have 3 leveling devices in my tool box. 

Here's what happened:

I spent a few hours in the kitchen with my boy after hanging his photos. Organizing, decluttering, making more space for him, cooking, and standing beside him which felt deeply nourishing. He now stands above the sacred territory where he used to eat and drink. 

About an hour later, one of my outlets short-circuited and sparked. It affected the outlet on the opposite wall as well. I reset the outlet. I reset my circuit breakers, (I even overdid the resets with the circuit breakers, just in case). Then I opened the outlet with a Flat-head screwdriver (not a Phillips-head, as I know the difference) and reset it again. Nothing helped. Just sparks. 

A few hours later, I started this process again. At that point, I realized that what was "causing" the short-circuiting was my Italian espresso machine's three pronged plug. It made no sense to me since I've had it for about 10 years and it was in working order this morning. But very "suddenly," the plug was causing the outlet to short-circuit. I was thinking, the machine is for home use, but the plug looked like it was commercial grade. Those clever Italians... 

I decided I probably needed to call an electrician or buy a new Francis Francis. I unplugged the machine and then swooned for another moment of bathing in my beautiful boy. I poured myself some seltzer, turned the lights out, and decided to call it a day.

My heart felt steady. Then I realized something. Maybe my boy caused a mini explosion (maybe he even broke the espresso machine) to let me know that he is standing with me. Because that is what it feels like now. 

It feels like he is home. 

I felt an overwhelming gratitude being transmitted into me as I was standing where he stood, where I nourished him and where he nourished me deeply in that loving exchange. I felt my body become heavier as if it were landing more fully inside its own vessel. 

Maybe I wasn't able to land until now because I was misguided in my search for him. Sometimes I think that the deepest part of grief is an internalized betrayal we feel in letting the one we love go. Go on to their next place. Releasing them from this one. It's hard for us. Who are we without that definition of that very intimate US? 

But maybe... maybe the landing has not been so much in the grace it took to release him from the form I knew and treasured, but... to let him... to let him in. In whatever way he and I are going stand beside each other with impeccable ease. Maybe that comes not on the exhale, but on the inhale. 

Maybe that explosion was not just another thing that broke down after losing him and had to shift in my life, but a recognition of shift. Maybe. Just maybe, my little heart warrior, working from the other side, was ushering me just as I ushered him, to know without a doubt, that we are still in this great exchange with each other. 

Sparks. Short-circuitry. An explosion by any other name, leading me back to myself. Bringing my boy home. 

I have been forever changed by this boy. And this love. This love? Very simply, this love is my home. 


Jill Bacharach

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Many Ways to Love (lose) a Mother

Today a new friend asked me about qualities I had inherited from you and I responded by saying that we would have to have this conversation at another time.

I felt a well of emotion rise up inside of me and as I drove home, I drove passed my namesake: the Iris gardens.

No. I did not curse you. All I felt was love.

It is a love cradled in the comfort of loss. But knowing that you have been birthed from that cradle and will one day reunite. (Knowing well that reunions come in many forms.)

There are many ways to lose a person.

I chose not to speak of it because of my love for you. But it has squandered a part of my heart and kept me small.

Recently, I read a woman’s account of how she is slowly losing her mother through the devastation of Alzheimer’s. My heart ached through most of what she wrote. (The family vernacular alone: a mystery for more than ¼ of my life.) At the end, she posted lyrics which you used to sing to me and it was truly something to feel into. All of that love. And all of that loss. Cradled and birthed in mystery. All of these 48 plus years. 


I’m not walking around guarded or angry. I’m not feeling self-righteous or owed.

But there is something I am walking around doing.

Protecting you.

I have been protecting you.

I don’t tell people about this 14- year silence. About the tikkun made 4- years ago which lasted barely a year and the decision you made to move on again in your life without me as a part of it.

Mostly, I have remained silent. I have touched upon this a bit, here, in this forum and recoiled from doing so more and more and more and more. That is on me.

I am innately driven towards protecting you (and my sister). I am driven towards protecting your choices in every possible way. 
Announcements are made about executive orders and I am still protecting you. The you from 45 years ago. The you who may potentially live another 25 years.

This is my own covenant without you.

I am a family of one.

It may not be the natural order of things, but somehow, this is what remains from what was given.

So does my love. And so does my forgiveness.

For years and years, I used to think that the world lied about families. About the ways families were meant to be yours forever.

But I no longer believe the world is lying. I had just been hurting each time I saw a film or a commercial or an intact family beside me at a restaurant that embodied that breathtaking quality of love. But then I taught myself something brave: to keep loving my way through every holiday, birthday, anniversary and even every surgery. 

I knew how to love others. And, as a family of one, this was what there was to do now.

Here is what I believe now: I believe we ALWAYS have what is ours. My heart has been through Olympic Trials many times.

You are my family even though you do not choose me. I may not be yours as you do not choose me.

For I am a family of one who loves many. 

I don’t define myself by loss or by what has been lost. I define myself by what keeps giving back to the source of the heart that beats love. And I am always going to want to be intimate with what those things are.

I am a family of one who loves many.

I am a family of one who loves many.

I am a family of one. 

And I will never stop 


Jill Bacharach