If I’m not working, sleeping or dragging Rinn off to have “old timey” photos taken I’m holed up in the garage feverishly working on one of the many custom works that I’ve been commissioned to paint. I have positively adored creating each of my amateur masterpieces but I recently had the opportunity to fashion what I now consider my magnum opus. Not due to its degree of difficulty or because it was a successful attempt at venturing outside of my comfort zone but because this piece tugged aggressively at my heartstrings and engaged the softest part of my soul.
It was recently that a friend of a friend lost her 16-year-old nephews in a car accident and upon seeing a painting I had done for him she requested that I paint a photo of their boots taken during their memorial service. I didn’t know these boys personally and I don’t know the specifics of the accident and frankly, I didn’t need to; it was more significant that I did this family justice in encapsulating a photo that would honor the memory of who I’m sure were once vibrant young men.
Unfortunately I am all too familiar with the pain and sadness endured when those nearest and dearest to you are but a memory, so in this instance I applied not only my evolving talent but my heart as well. For years my sister Mallory has been simply a feeling, a keepsake, a photograph, a memory and now this family will face the same situation. I completed the painting and handed it over for delivery with intense anxiety but hopeful that I had just provided the family with a rendering of their beloveds that they could cherish in times of sorrow and dreamy reminiscence. Shortly after losing Mallory we received a beautifully executed portrait drawing from a dear friend of hers and it is still displayed, incorporated into the picture wall featured in my living room. It’s an ageless reminder of her and her understated beauty, both physical and intangible.
I quickly received an appreciative thank you note and found myself overcome with bittersweet comfort. Would I have preferred to not have executed this painting because this family never faced such an unbearable tragedy, an astounding yes but life is just as tragic as it is beautiful so I accepted this state of contentment. It was in that moment that I was reminded of my family’s own struggles in loss. October 11th remains a difficult day but this year it will mark 14 years since Mallory was taken from this life tragically and too soon. She was only 14 then and it’s difficult to believe that my life without her will now exceed the life we spent together.
Growing up, my parents regularly recited the poem from I Love You Forever to my sister and I. My parents and I have continued that tradition in making it part of Rinn’s bedtime ritual and including a list of the people that love him from me and his Auntie Mallory to the family dog. Fourteen is merely a number, so with that:
I love you forever I like you for always
As long as I’m living
My sister you’ll be