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Making Ourselves Known and Unknown - Laura Arena

I don’t know much about my mother, Helen Marie Jacob and even less about my mother’s mother, Hannah Lowery. My mother took her last breath on this earth in Spring 2000, I was 29 years old. My mother’s mother took hers in summer of 1978, I was 7 years old. They both lived the exact number of years. The most intimate conversation I had with my mom was a remark she made nonchalantly “Never to marry for money, marry for love.” I regret not digging deeper into this remark, but at the time I was so sure of myself never to marry, "I said you don’t need to worry about that". Only later after she left us, I realized how remarkable that comment was. It gave so much insight about the relationship she had with my father. All the days and nights lying in the bed with headaches meant so much more.

The memories of my mother’s mother are more based around feeling and her appearance. I was terrified of her. I don’t recall any loving encounters. What I do remember, her not being of this world. Living between two worlds one of for the known and one for the unknown. Now I find it incredible at such a young age I could make that observation. As children the veil is often thin between these two worlds, and I was clearly able to see. I could not understand her language, a mix of deep southern and Lumbee speak. Nor I could understand how she lived in a trailer in the backwoods of a swamp. Her body, unlike my mothers, was not the shape of a woman, but rather strong and without curves. A thick waist and calves with gnarly hands. Her dark skin wrinkled like a prune in the sun.

Death, I Know Them More The day my mom took her last breath, I was with her. I knew on that day it was her last with us and made a point to stay by her side. My memory does not serve me well of our last words. When she reached past the point of speaking, all was spoken with her eyes. I told her it was time and I promised we would be fine. Through her eyes, I was talking to myself, our breadth, our skin, our sound, our touch, our heart a mirror. From this day onward the mirror is my reminder of who I am.

In death, my mother’s mother is my inner fire, who illuminates darkness and is as expansive as a starry, night sky. Always in the forefront of all my life experiences that have left a deep imprint. Her fire propels me forward giving momentum and capacity to show up and to do the work. In my activist work, my artistic practice, ancestral work, and paranormal events. Only in death, I have come to know the unknown that has integrated through me to be me.

Disclaimer: This writing has been made possible due to a head injury deleting all attachments, dentities and belief systems. All women in the photos are members of the Lumbee Nation what is currently known as North Carolina in America.

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