Art · Death · Expatria · Trauma · Wendy


The Past, oil pastel on paper by Sezin, 2003

In the wake of a summer filled with visitors, our home is full of odds and ends that have been gifted or left behind. Hershey’s Kisses, needlepoint art, crocheted scarves, Turkish hamam towels, mesh butterflies, Auroville incense and oils, DVDs, books. Inadvertent remnants of a bottle of shampoo, the scent of my mom’s caramel perfume oil. Photographs. Hundreds of new and old images now populate my side of the laptop, my Facebook page, the little corner by the dinner table.

Something/someone always gets left behind and has to fill the now-empty space. Reorganising these new objects to set up visual cues of the people that we miss. Returning to the daily routine of work, grocery shopping, home, sleep. Lather, rinse and repeat.

This week is the nine-year memorial of the September 11, 2001 tragedy. In the meantime a debate rages in America about a proposed Islamic community centre that would be built near the remnants of Ground Zero. What remains of American xenophobia and racism has been highlighted over and over during this discussion. The misinformation has lead to violent attacks against people who may or may not be Muslims, but are perceived as Al-Qaida by their fellow Americans.

Nine years ago, after the sky opened up and the World Trade Centers collapsed into ash, I never would have imagined how the right-wing media have managed to spin that event into a sounding board for the promotion of hatred and fearmongering.

On August 31, 2010 my only remaining grandparent passed away, another example of the Death at a Distance phenomenon discussed by my friend Catherine Yigit in a recent expat+HAREM post. At the time of my Aachi’s death I can’t say I felt much: I was quite angry at her with regards to family issues and I had emotionally detached from her last year post-Christmastime.

On Saturday, September 4, 2010, I found out that my Aachi left me a 10-or-so page missive about my Sri Lankan family history. She wrote the letter after my first visit back to Colombo a few years ago as a response to the ton of questions I asked her about about my ancestry. At the time she couldn’t tell me everything she wanted to because, apparently, not everyone in the family knows these dark secrets. She wrote the letter and gave it to my mother to give to me after her death. From what I’ve heard, this letter rattles the foundation of whatever semblance of family composes my massively dysfunctional relatives.

Since Saturday I’ve started leaving out small plates of food for Aachi. This is a Lakota tradition I learned of through my spiritual relations Grampa Tony Black Feather (who also died in August, although in the year 2004) and Aunty Charmaine White Face. This Spirit Food is so that the departed can still participate in our lives and know we honour their memory, their legacy. Leaving these plates for Aachi iis my way of saying “Thank you”. She has given me all the information that remain of my Sri Lankan heritage. I may have my fourth novel’s premise in mind. It’s hard to be angry with her now.

October 28, 2010 will mark the 10-year point since my darling Wendy was torn from her life by a crackhead, gun-toting, car-jacking, gang member. From the remnants of that horrific trauma, I have done my best to make a life for myself of which Wendy would admire and be proud. The results of so much pain have been shaped into my first novel, 410 blog posts, 13 published articles, thousands of photographs, dozens of Angel drawings, four tattoos, my hybrid/MONSTER sideshow exhibit.

Still, I am haunted by surviving Wendy’s murder. This is the time of year when remnants of fear surface. I am more prone to anxiety attacks, my sense of safety feels compromised from within, I find myself overcome with tears in the most inappropriate of places, like on the tram to work or in the Vietnamese market that does not have tomato sauce. My heart palpitates, my fingers go numb, I have to remind myself to breathe in, breathe out.

Stitch these remnants together like you would a quilt:
The shape of my pain.

8 thoughts on “Remnants

  1. You have enriched my day with this post – thanks.

    What beautiful art Wendy left for the world to enjoy, and now your grandmother has left you a letter, which will help you to get to know yourself even better, and that in return always helps us to breathe

    PS Zuzu’s Petals is a great name, and the new layout is really nice

    1. Thank you for visiting and commenting, Ms Afropolitan, and I’m so glad you like the new layout. Yes, Wendy left a beautiful legacy and although I am often sad thinking about her not being here with us, I do my best to follow in her creative footsteps. Thank you again for your lovely words and sending you a big hug.

  2. Our bodies remember, to feel as vulnerable as you do around this time is not strange, and highly recognizable to me. All you can do is acknowledge the source of your discomfort, honoring your feelings and the memory of people who have a place in your heart. I wept visiting the memorial site of your friend Wendy and feel for your and your family’s grief.
    At the memorial of our mutual friend, Jo Nelson, PhilRed Eagle said, “The dead are only in the other room.”
    Physically not within reach, but spiritually there, always.
    What an amazing gift to receive the letter from your Aachi. It saddens me that she couldn’t give you the letter during her lifetime, but you clearly have found a way to thank her and will continue doing so by creating your novels and art.
    People to often think they protect others and themselves by keeping secrets, but nothing is further removed from the truth than that (no pun intended).
    Nothing is harder than embarking upon the quest to search and uncover what’s been hidden and lied about, but to create from pain and transcend the hurt, is the only way to deal with the past, the only way to break the mold, to undo destructive patterns.
    You, we have the power! Be kind to yourself, count your blessings each day, list the positive, stay healthy.

    1. Thank you, Judith. You are so right that our bodies remember. Thank you for visiting Wendy’s memorial page. It’s just another way to know that she is still touching people even if “from the other room”. I love what you say about listing the positive, and I certainly will do that especially as October 28 approaches. Wonderful words from a wonderful woman. Much love to you, Judith. xoxo

  3. Sezin, this post leaves me with such longing to gather up every bit of memory of the people I’ve lost. Most people detach themselves from that loss – like the tourists in Anne Frank’s house in your related post. Or they feel hatred, like the right-wing xenophobes who can’t distinguish between 1 billion Muslims and the 19 terrorists who hijacked those planes and the entire religion of Islam.

    You, my dear Sezin, are so much more sane to rage and cry and create and truly feel the pain that all these remnants leave behind. With this wealth of emotion, you are honoring the memory of the people who have shaped your life, and sharing them with us in a way that their lives will touch ours as well. And all of us are so much saner for what you write.

    1. Oh Catherine! Your comment made me cry. Thank you so much for your words and your support. It is so much easier to detach from loss than process it. For me, the more I detach myself the more physical and emotional problems emerge as a result. It’s like a wound that will never heal. You can cover it up and pretend it’s not there even though it hurts more and more, or you can leave it open so that not only you remember you have to take care of it, but also because, like you said, these scars eventually shape us.

      Thank you, again, and much love to you.

  4. Something — or someone — left behind filling the now-empty space. Yes, Sezin. The trace of an existence.

    It’s like the parking lot my downtown New York apartment overlooked on September 11th. Partially filled, such clear clear skies overhead. It took weeks for those cars to be claimed, one by one. I watched the lot empty itself, never knowing what happened to those drivers.

    I’m glad your Aachi wrote you a letter, left you a trace you can follow to find your own answers.

    1. Anastasia, what a haunting picture you paint of that parking lot. My heart wrenches. I’m listening to the interview with the Imam of the proposed Community Centre and feeling such sadness that nine years later the debate has become so detached from the humanity of the event. A strip bar is acceptable on the ashes of the dead, but not a community centre. My brain does not compute this. At all.

      I’m also glad my Aachi wrote me the letter. Do you remember the comment I left on your Twinge of heritage post, about my Indian gypsy ancestor who danced the flamenco in yellow? Well, some of the letter apparently is actually about family that I actually do have in India of whom I had no idea other than that one recurring dream. Spooky, no?


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