Check the Mail for Her Letter

Grieving Through Art, The Works of Amy Parrish, visual artist

When it comes to mourning and grief after the death of a loved one, Alzheimer’s disease can pose unique challenges. For visual artist Amy Parrish, who was living thousands of miles from home when her grandmother Mary Jane passed on, mourning that loss became an act of artistic creation and took on a life of its own.

She began printing old photographs of her grandmother’s life and applying gouache and white wax pencil to them. She often obscured faces, body parts and other details — at times inviting the viewer to focus on a specific gesture or to wonder what was lost.

“I like to highlight that gray area between reality and illusion,” Parrish says. “And to some degree to preserve the anonymity of my grandmother’s dementia journey.”

One of the first photos she discovered was of her grandfather and grandmother in a tender moment, with him gently touching her arm. Parrish obscures the rest of the image but the arm remains, “I wondered if, despite her dementia, could she still remember the way that she had been loved?”

The project’s title, Check The Mail For Her Letter, comes from a memorable moment Parrish had with her grandmother. “The last time I saw her, she was having a delusion,” she told Dementia Spring, “She thought I was my aunt, and she insisted we go to the old farmhouse – which hadn’t been in our family for years – and check the mail together.”

After returning from overseas, Parrish had a dream in which her grandmother was communicating with her through a photograph.  The next morning she penned a letter to her grandmother, but never sent it off; her grandmother died shortly after.

“I just wished I had mailed her that letter,” she said.

For more information about Parrish’s work check out her website here.

Related Articles

I Still Love You

I Still Love You

Caring for a loved one with dementia is always challenging, but especially when dementia is accompanied by other illnesses. That’s where artist Diane Pontius was when she started caring for and filming her father, Robert Pontius, MD.

read more
Sky on Swings

Sky on Swings

Using opera to explore the inner lives of two modern women with dementia, composer Lembit Beecher paints a tender, complex portrait of what it’s like to actually live with Alzheimer’s disease.

read more