The search for the statue called “Melancolie” began when I received an emotional, moving text from one of my sisters about a statue in Geneva, Switzerland with a gripping image of alloys meshed together to form a model of a human being suffering in the midst of great loss. The image itself was mesmerizing as I understood the gaping void in the chest to symbolize emptiness, complete loss. Ever since we as a family (especially one of my sisters) lost a 19-year-old (son, nephew, grandson, brother), each of us has struggled in our own lives with melancholy, this feeling of pensive sadness or sorrow, gloominess, misery, depression. The passing of a loved one is not something forgotten or set aside. Grief takes many forms. Occasionally, something like this statue puts a new meaning or image on the loss.
When I received this text and image, I was traveling in France with my daughter. For once I was glad I read all the details of the statue and its location. Geneva, Switzerland in a small park on the promenade Quai du Mont Blanc along the shore of Lake Geneva. I read it again, out loud this time to my daughter. No way! Out of all the places in the world, this statue rested in Geneva. No longer was this an image, a depiction of an emotion my beloved sister carries in her loss, but a physical statue in the path of my travels. Only God could have for some reason put all the pieces together–the statue, the text, the route at the precise time we would be in Geneva for only a few hours.
I didn’t know if we could find the statue or if we were meant to find it. I just knew excitement and purpose in the mission. My thoughts were far from melancholy and sorrow. Sometimes God puts things in the pathway for us to find as signs and reminders of our loved ones and of His love. This was one for me. As our trip had only just begun, we had two and a half weeks of travel before Switzerland even entered our minds. The mountains of France, Spain, Andorra, and Italy posed unconquerable, much less Mont Blanc and the entrance into Geneva.
Still the image of the statue rested in the back of my mind, patiently, unforgotten, only resting for a time. In my happiness and excitement during my travel with my daughter, I experienced God’s handiwork in the scenery, the hills, the sea, the gardens, the architecture, the people, and the language. The whole time “Melancolie” waited, quietly and peacefully.
I had just conquered my mountain, Mont Blanc and didn’t know what kind of energy I had for exploring Geneva. After all, this was really only a stopping point on our way to Paris. As a rule we knew if we wanted to see anything of this city, we had to bypass a rest and hit the city in order to see a few sights. Quickly we found Geneva to be expensive and a bit confusing. Once we found the old town we relaxed and wandered. Still there was nothing we HAD to see. We found our bus stop and waited for our transportation to our room.
Something pulled at my memory; something I needed to do, to see; something I couldn’t put off until we left in the morning. Now was the time to search, even if unsuccessfully, for the statue–for my sister, for me, and perhaps for a message. Since we had already bought our bus tickets, we had about 50 minutes to see if we could find “Melancholie.”
On the Quai du Mont Blanc, there are three parks. And in one of those parks, “Melancolie”. My heart was racing. Why all of the sudden did I HAVE to find the statue? Because it was so close. I needed to touch it. For my sister and for me. As we searched park #2 with no luck, we turned and my daughter said, “There it is!” Across the street in a park by the lake.
I cried as I approached it, as I’m crying now as I’m writing this. On a bench with his (her) back to the lake, the figure is bent over with his arms on his knees, head bowed, with a huge empty circle where his chest and heart should be. “Melancolie.” I stared at the heartbreaking image of grief and emptiness while a peace filled me. Peace mixed with the power of love. A mother’s love. A sister’s love. A father’s love. Love!
I didn’t know what to do. I looked to my daughter, and with a nod of her head, I advanced and sat by the statue and placed my hand on one leg and looked at the face. I saw myself sitting by my sister and sharing her grief. It was beautiful. And it was healing. It was far from melancholy because love was there in the image of people coming alongside of all of us who grieve. God’s constant comfort even in the grief.
“Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4.
The sculptor, Albert György, created the statue after the grief he experienced about the death of his wife. He has been able to find and enjoy freedom in his life now. The emptiness depicted by the huge void in the sculpture is how the loved one feels at all times–empty. But the love seen through the void is real and allows hope and happiness.
This journey to the statue was not by chance. It was set in motion by God.
Is there an image that has touched you profoundly?