May 5, 2012
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. ~ Psalm 139:1
Three years ago today, my sister died of acute liver failure. She became sick a month prior and quickly... too quickly passed away from us. I’ve not written much about this... because still, even after three years, the words... right words... just aren’t there.
I’m not writing to get compassion for myself in losing my sister... it’s very personal, but I hope to lend something to you that may help you during a difficult time. Art heals. While my sister was ill and grew worse, I painted. I created. I processed and found places of comfort in the safe place of divine creativity. While she was ill, I had a show coming up that was titled, “The Journey Home.” It was about finding our true home in the Presence of God. I did not know that she would be there soon.
As I dealt with the month of her sickness, hospitals, procedures... emotions... horrific things... I still kept painting. I was pushed by the deadline of getting the show together, but my need to paint was so beyond just the deadline... there was a deadline in my soul.... a knowing that I had to paint to stay sound... to stay “okay” ... to be resolved.
I hoped the ending was going to be good and that she would pull through and be okay too. That we, as a family would have this testimony of endurance and victory... but on the day that I had my show laid out on the floor of the gallery... ready to hang... she died. I had left the gallery to go home to make the call to my mom... because I knew she had passed and I couldn’t hear that in the midst of the art gallery.
The news ached through me.
The show was scheduled and I had to hang it. Friends wanted to come help me, but somehow... just getting in the gallery and putting those “paint through it all” pieces on the wall was something I had to do without comforters. So I went and hung my heart on the walls of that gallery. The gallery was at MorningStar, where I had been equipped to do the work of the ministry... where I had been trained to be a warrior. I was a wounded warrior that day, yet putting that “Journey Home” on the wall that day was my battle.
We left to go home to Virginia after I hung the show. I remember my weary Mama falling into my arms... every ounce of her collapsing inside and the results of that weight in my arms... oh what despair... I’ve never known. I ached and yet held strong... for that moment anyway. My opening reception was the day of her funeral and as it was announced as part of a conference... it had to go on. It did. The days passed and the grieving sunk deep and the Lord comforted my heart... but not until the day I got back home to Charlotte and went to the gallery alone to be with those artworks did I find true rest. There in the paintings were answers... that I didn’t even know I had asked. There in the fibers of those pieces were assurances I hadn’t even know I would need. It was a refuge... a home.
The day my sister died, I called one of my closest friends, and she said to me, “Pattie, the Lord knows you. He knew that on this day you would receive this horrible news, and that you would have your art sitting on the floor of that gallery, and, though it’s so hard.... He’s got you. He holds you. He knows you.”
And though after three years, I still don’t really have words to make sense of it... I have images, and colors, and textures, line, form, and symbolisms.... they speak softly of my journey home.... her journey home.... but most of all they speak of a path. A sanctuary. A home.
As I sketched today for this devotional... my frustration jabbed at the paper.... still a little anger that she is not here and about all the ways we failed to reach one another while she was... but soon... in the first few circles I felt the Lord come in and develop this structure... circles pushing together... spaces of understanding pushing together that without words gives me a solidity to the ripped places of this life. An image feels more solid than a thousand words.