The Scream

by Helene Swanson

One of my first college writing assignments was on The Scream by Edward Munch. I identified with it as the painting invoked strong feelings as I thought of my mother who lost all of her hair when a red brick fell nine stories striking her smack dab in the middle of her skull as she had thrown herself on my baby pram so that I would not be hurt by what she though was a race riot.

The ScreamTwo men hanging The Scream at an auction where it fetched about 120 million dollars

I became her memory and it took many years to learn how to speak in a vocal range that would not cause her agony and pain. Being that she partially deaf that was a real challenge. I still talk rather loudly and often I am treated with distain for my voice modulation techniques. But I will always talk as loud as necessary for those who are hard of hearing.

My mother was amazing, she took me as a child to meetings all over NYC, and she continued to work after the life-changing accident. She had to. She had not earned enough credits to be eligible for Social Security. At the time of the accident she worked as an Executive Secretary for the American Express Travel Corporation appearing on their quarterly report (April 1967) the month of her accident with took place on Good Friday. As a child growing up in England during the great war she was divinely inspired my Ghandi, even naming her Golden Retriever after him. The following Sunday, Easter Sunday she came out of the coma and insisted that like Ghandiji would take no medicine to change her condition or outcome. Even refused a steel plate.

I remember, as child, when she took me to women’s rights meetings and asked to make note of all that I heard so that I could recount later. She hid her disability explaining that she did not need sympathy she just wanted a level playing field. Going back to work damaged her case they claimed. She tried to explain that she did not want us growing up on welfare that was not the example she wanted for her children. Don’t get me wrong she believed all woman should be helped by our government it everyway possible, welfare included. She just felt that her personal standards should not be forced on others. My mother also believed in pro-choice but was clear that for her it was not an option as a devout Catholic. I guess you could say my mother’s motto “was a live and let live”.

So earlier today, I felt overwhelmed and I left the Google Boolean field empty reaching out to the universe for answers to my late husband’s death. His death came so unexpected. I am still grieving for him in ways unimagined.   The universe answered when the search brought up a website on the Munch Museum in Norway, bringing home that essay I wrote so many years ago. Bad things happen to good people… no need to question why… one must move on and continue to do good work… despite the odds.

 WGS - Kelly's B-day PartyWilliam G. Swanson at our God Daugther Kelly Godbout’s 19th Birthday Party, Sausalito, CA

So today Mum, Katrina, and William as always, you three are inspiration in my life. The blisters as they come and go with each step I take are nothing compared to your pain and suffering which you endured with smiles and grace bar me from complaining. Like our Brother Jesus who guided your every step it is my desire to do God’s work, through this the ministry of Katrina’s Dream.

Thank you Mum, thank you Katrina, and thank you my beloved William for teaching me all that I know about building a 21st Century “City of God” and the promise of life everlasting.

May my room in God’s mansion with many rooms be decorated with acts which mimic Jesus Christ.