In this second post in our Guest Editor series, Steph Blom interviews Odete, an inspiration to Steph at an important moment in the journey of this project.
I interviewed Odete, the grandmother of my friend Catarina. Odete was born in Angola, and later on moved to Lisbon, where she still lives. She has an expressive face and a beautiful, powerful and vivid energy. I am meeting her and Catarina on Skype, as I am in Barcelona, and they are in Lisbon. Catarina at this time is very pregnant, and she helps to translate for Odete and I.
When I ask Odete if she could tell me a bit about herself first, she answers me firmly and with ease.
“I am a person who never gave up on anything in my life.
In the saddest moments of my life, I have always put a smile on my face.
That is the beginning of my life.”
She continues. “I am a person who always fought for a better life. I am happy. My name is Odete. I’m turning 90 by the end of November. I was a very healthy person, but something happened to me and I have difficulty walking.”.
At this moment, her granddaughter, who is sitting next to her, starts laughing. She says that she has to explain something to me. The thing that her grandmother felt that happened to her, is that she is actually just growing old. Both her and Odete are laughing at this moment. It is beautiful to see the humor and the connection they share. Odete continues. “I try my best to be OK with this situation, because I really like to go for walks.
I also really like to paint. I painted for many years with oil paint and watercolor. I made a lot of paintings in my whole life.”
“I am now a grandmother, a mother, and a great-grandmother. I am very happy to have come to see three generations in my life.” At this point, Catarina stands up and shows me her big belly, seeing her like that, with her proud grandmother next to her, is a stunning image.
Odete, what are your thoughts about life and death?
We are two people, always. Me, and that what’s inside.
I believe that we always live with a person within us. With whom we talk, with whom we converse, but we cannot see this other person. This other person is inside of us. Sometimes we are alone, and we talk to ourselves, we ask: “What do you want?”.
I believe in another life. I believe this life is a school, and I believe in another spiritual life, which is another school. I have difficulty, sometimes, in understanding that we are alive, we move, we talk, we think, we walk, and then suddenly we die and everything ends.
Now I ask: where is that which is inside of us? What is it that is inside of us and where did it go?
I believe we are energy. We and everything that we do is energy. What is our life? Our life exists of new days. Every day we create a day of our life. And that is what we call life. Everything that happened to me alone, remains within me in my life.
** Weaving by Steph Blom after meeting Odete Engles “The weaving is like a portrait of Odete, it represents the impression I had of her and her energy.**
I think there is another world, what it is like I do not know. I believe in God. For me, it is a superior force that rules the world. God is not a person, it is a superior force that the Catholics call God, others call it Allah, and others call it Buddha. There must be a higher force that commands the world. The world is so perfect, that it has to be a very, very strong force to rule the world.
Odete continues about what it is like for her to grow older.
“I had an image in my mind of what it would be like to grow old, and it did not go as I had planned. I was not expecting health problems and difficulties with walking. I am trying to accept it.”
After these last words expressing her feelings about ageing, we say goodbye. I take her picture via skype so that I can draw her portrait later, she smiles.
**Artwork by Steph Blom – Pen and Ink portrait and Inked letter (in Spanish)**
I knew meeting Odete was going to be special. I knew it because I know my friend Catarina, who is a beautiful person, and I knew it because of the way she always spoke about her grandmother. However, even when knowing this beforehand, Odete made such a big impression on me, our meeting left me touched and grateful for having the chance to hear her wise words. What a strong, sensitive, and very present person. And what a view on life. I feel so much respect for the bond that my friend shares with her grandmother, which to me seems so very valuable, and I am grateful to be able to share Odete’s words.