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I was in an upstairs room putting laundry away, not thinking about anything in particular. I was "in the zone," crossing off a list of chores. I had assumed the days of seeing my grandmother Frances in dreams had passed and sadly had not thought of her in awhile. When I stood up from my task, the atmosphere in the room had changed. I closed my eyes and waited. I can barely describe it. It lasted less than two minutes. It is simply that her scent is so distinctive--a complex mix of skin cream, perfume, clothing, perspiration. I am probably freaking you out--I certainly don't mean to--but if you've lost a loved one you may know what I'm talking about.

My culture doesn't make room for these experiences. If something doesn't fit neatly within the confines of protestant tradition, it is dismissed, or (mis)labeled, and certainly not entertained. Pretty tragic. Our loved ones are no longer confined by a physical world. Do we reject the possibility that our lives are observed by them?

Of course this experience made me think of her portrait. So I put the portrait panel back on my easel. No photos to look at. No more analyzing or measuring, just a renewed determination to capture her presence. I had the day off. I took my time mixing the paint. I talked to her while I painted, teased her about her color preferences for lipstick, the perfect manicure, the blue mascara she liked. An hour later it felt like the painting had turned a corner. I finally--finally--see the woman I had seen in my dreams.

A tremendous sense of relief. I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it. It certainly did not feel like I did it on my own.

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