A Special Gift

Beautiful painting of two mute swans on the water

In May 2021 a pair of mute swans by the lake hatched seven adorable cygnets.  All of us along the waterfront were elated and spent their early days watching the parents parading their fluffballs as they learned to swim, eat, and preen.  There was also a lot of sleeping and riding on Mama’s back.  It seemed like being so young took a lot of energy. 

We were heart-broken, then when all seven disappeared at once when they were less than two weeks old.  It took five weeks to get word from someone who had witnessed it, that all seven had drowned in a terrible wintery storm. 

My brother-in-law, a professional cellist and semi-professional painter, painted an impressionist painting of the family, with several cygnets on Mama’s back and a couple in the water.  I was surprised that in the painting the cygnets weren’t very distinct, or highly visible – more of a grey blur than a group of individuals.  I had imagined them being central as it was their loss I was mourning. But I came to like his interpretation – it felt a bit fleeting and ephemeral, as they had sadly been – yet they were there, they had existed.

In August 2022 my brother-in-law himself died too young.  The painting turned out to be the last gift he gave me.  I treasure it all the more.


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