“If the purpose of art is to nourish the spirit, what more appropriate place to find it than a hospital, where our spirit may encounter its most critical moments.” Eileen Lawton
As most of you probably know or have guessed, we are a family of artists. Vernon originally got a degree in painting and mine was in Acting. Since then, we have both evolved to other mediums. He has moved on to Font Design and I have focused on visual art for the last decade-plus. My parents are both artists and Vernon’s mother teaches watercolor painting in a retirement home. It seems the children are showing talent in that area as well. I must say art is a becoming a wonderful tool for our family. It calms the mind while giving us something to look back on.
Maki is back in New Zealand, but his mother has emailed to tell me that they too are spending time painting and drawing. Since she and Vernon actually met in art school in Norway once upon a time, it should be no surprise that she is a talented painter…and about-to-be-published novelist. While she was here, we discussed the idea of whether children should be encouraged toward art or to a career with potentially-less struggle, but less emotional-connection.
I don’t know if there is a right answer. I do know that many times, I wished I had a different mind that could do law or accounting, or even sit at a desk with a boss, if that meant more security. I know Vernon has thought the same. Maybe our kids will too? But in this time of watching Vernon fight for survival, and next, the long road of recovery to a new-normal, our finances are not the first thing on my mind. Our emotional and spiritual lives are. Suddenly, I have discovered that the kids and I have in-built tools to help work through the hard times in an enjoyable way. And hopefully we are helping our Daddy/Husband by default. Personally, I think everyone has this creative power in them but often they have to re-learn it after leaving it behind as children.
When the nurses told us we could bring in pictures of Vernon and the family, I don’t think they had any idea of monster we might create. Above is just part of the wall to the right, filled with family photos and artwork. Two side-windows are also filled and we have moved to the limited real estate of the left-hand wall. It has been wonderful to have a a musician friend (Chris, above) come by to help Vernon make brain-connections through live music-vibrations as well.
My dear friend, Alannah Gignac, who stayed at the house this weekend to watch Justine, drew this wonderful piece of a broken-up and patched mind and a bridge toward healing.
I was so touched the other day, when a nurse responded to my statement that I wasn’t at bedside enough, by saying: “But you ARE here, you are here through your photos and your artwork.” I felt greatly validated, I admit. Probably more than I ever have before. Because for the first time, it is a matter of actual survival.
I am sure we will continue to share more about the artwork and pictures on Vernon’s wall. But I want to share one more important piece. Justine drew this one a couple of weeks ago, before Vernon began to wake up. I’m amazed by her intuition.
She said, “This is a picture of Mommy, taking care of Daddy , who is a baby right now.” (See the little red figure in the bottom corner?) I am struck especially by the “hedge of protection” (my words) that makes a frame around the drawing. I noticed how it is attached under mommy’s wing/arm. And its not that I feel especially strong, but I do want to protect him and that comes from the faith around and inside of me. The kid could be an Oracle…
As for today, Vernon has moved off methadone, which must be exhausting due to the constant pain now. He is only on hospital-grade tylenol for his fevers. And he continues to trial his breathing off the ‘standing-by’ ventilator, Oxygen sucked in through a tube, and on his own for the exhale. He seemed too tired today to follow many commands, but I know for at least a little while he was with us. As we are speaking of the healing power of the arts, he was most relaxed when his friend Chris Owen came to play guitar and also when a surprise harpist (her name-tag said ‘spiritual care’) came to perform a in the hallway.