Bereaved Mother Designs Life After Death
Robin Botie is a blogger and Photo-shopper who believes she can design her way into or out of anything. For three years she lived in the trenches of a war against cancer and
became an expert in walking the tightrope between protecting her daughter’s health and guarding her instinct to live life like it could end in an hour.
In her weekly blogs Botie writes about growing in the midst of grief and finding life after loss of a child. She currently phones the bereaved for Hospicare
and Palliative Care Services, and volunteers for The Compassionate Friends, a national organization supporting bereaved parents. She has worked as an art teacher at the Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School of Ithaca and as a special
education teacher in the Ithaca City School District. She is the creator and former owner of Silk Oak, an Ithaca, New York-based hand silkscreen printing and design company. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts (Art Education) and
Master of Arts (Environmental Arts) from Syracuse University. A foodie, a hiker, an out-loud reader, Botie is the proud mother of a grown son and daughter. She lives in the hills surrounding Ithaca, New York in the house she designed
on a small pond with a green heron, ducks and geese, very vocal frogs, deer, raccoons and muskrats, and an occasional fox.
I always believed I could design my way into or out of anything. To design is to start with something, a lump of clay, a need, canvas and paint, or a girl with cancer, and then turn it into something else. For me, to design is to fix and
to make beautiful. But in March 2011, cancer killed my daughter. I could not fix that. I froze. Like mud in winter. Who am I? I wondered. Who or what am I supposed to fix now?
A year and a half after the death of my daughter, I desperately needed to breathe visible life into my memories of her like one huffs and puffs at the last embers of a dying campfire. I couldn’t find a job. I didn’t even know who I was
anymore or what I could do. Tompkins Cortland Community College was offering a digital photography class. I enrolled, knowing nothing about photography. Computers and technology in general confounded me. But then I discovered Photoshop.
Right away I began to play with digital gossamers, photo-shopping my daughter’s face onto everything. It was comforting to me. And challenging.
Photoshop offers intriguing “Tools” to work with for those whose lives are in turmoil or struck by loss. There is a Patch Tool and a Path Selection Tool, a Dodge Tool and an Add-Anchor Tool, a Magic Eraser, a Magic Wand, a Clone Stamp,
… and a Healing Brush. The possibilities for change and control are endless. I began to add pictures to my weekly blogs where I write about healing, re-inventing one’s place in the world, and finding joy again.