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Losing Phoebe: Former Teacher Shares Her Journey to Help Others Understand

Amy Siqveland | United States

Though Phoebe rarely traveled in recent decades, there seemed to be a luggage theme in her home, with many of her things encased in various compartments. Here she is pictured with her son beneath one of her art pieces. While we were cleaning out her house over many weekends, someone broke in and went through her things, leaving a mess behind. This event, along with having some valuables stolen from her bedside immediately after her death, just added to the larger sense of feeling robbed and violated and intensified the mistrust and anger at the lack of protection for society’s most vulnerable.

Ive been with my fiancé for 15 years. Though I knew his mom, Phoebe, Id never been to her house. Part of this was that she scheduled her doctor appointments in Minneapolis when she wanted to see us. But it was also because she had some physical and mental challenges that made it difficult for her to leave her home and invite others inside.

As her health issues progressed, it became apparent that Phoebe needed increasing support so we moved her to an assisted living facility in 2019. Soon after, the Pandemic hit and her nursing home went into lockdown. Though she navigated several waves of exposure, she eventually caught COVID and died.

This essay is about getting to know Phoebe while sorting through her things. Through this intimate experience, Ive a much greater comprehension of her health trajectory, her intense love for her son, and the gifts she passed down in sharing him with me.

His first Mothers Day without her falls on her birthday weekend. We miss her and want people to appreciate that every number lost in this pandemic has both a face and a family.

I shoot photographs because I believe art can be one of the most important mediums for exchanging dialogue and creating change. I'm a former social worker and am passionate about human rights issues, environmental conservation and the empowerment of women and marginalized communities. I believe in using my camera as a grassroots tool to both honor hope and fight oppression in a nonviolent manner.


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