Love, Jack. That's what this painting is called...
A couple months ago Hospice & Palliative Care Manitoba contacted me to see if I might be willing to do a small painting that would be given to their luncheon speaker, Olivia Chow. She had recently lost her husband (and leader of the New Democratic Party) Jack Layton to cancer. (THIS is a shot video synopsis of his life and who he was... and this slide show of pictures shows few shots of them together.) In his death - he inspired a nation with his poise, positivity and letter to Canadians. It really didn't matter if you were political or even what side you were on - in death, his inspiring words touched us all.
"Love is better than anger.
Hope is better than fear.
Optimism is better than despair.
So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.
And we can change the world."
I remember his when he died (last August) and I remember his words. I also remember my heart aching for Olivia. She had lost her husband in the public eye and had to go on with life - answering questions, doing interviews, speaking engagements.
In the midst of my own health crisis - and my struggle to be hopeful - being asked to do this was a tremendous honour. And a terrifying challenge. What if I couldn't?
So I researched things. I watched Olivia's interviews. I watched the funeral. I watched old news clips. I read everything I could read about both Jack and Olivia because I wanted to do a painting that would be representative of everything I had learned but, like Jack's words, be felt by many.
And nothing was working. My hands, especially, were not cooperating. My fears were keeping me from getting the painting done and nothing seemed right. Or good enough. Or strong enough. Or emotional enough.
But, then I found my hope.
I decided that pain is not something I stop for. Eff pain. My brain is stronger than pain. My will is stronger. My heart is stronger. I will not stop for pain. This year has been terrible. To be frank. It's been the worst year I have endured because IT'S FILLED WITH GOODNESS like a healthy happy fantastic family and I am trapped in pain.
And SO IT STOPS.
The last couple of weeks I have not stopped or slowed down. I have painted and painted and painted. When a painting is done I feel an incredible sense of freedom. Like I am flying. And oh my goodness, I KNOW HOW DUMB THAT SOUNDS. It's adrenaline or exhaustion or whatever. But it's a high and it feels so good that I am going to chase it SHAMELESSLY. UNAPOLOGETICALLY. And with great love. It's the best painkiller ever.
This afternoon, Hospice & Palliative Care Manitoba asked me to present it to her. And as events always do - they were rushed and bumbled and I was sort of deposited in front of a microphone (which I did not expect) and I bungled my way through a quick and very awkward thank you to her.
But when I found myself in my car after the event - I knew I needed to go back. This painting had brought me so much and it slipped through my hands like yesterday's newspaper. It didn't feel right. So I went back. I went to find Olivia. To talk to her. To explain what it meant and why I chose those things... and to connect with her before my chance was gone.
I'm so glad I did. I'm glad it worked out. What an amazing opportunity. She is as gracious as I imagined. I am honoured. And full of hope.
Oh, yes. The painting is called Love, Jack because those are his words in a letter to Canadians. They are from him. That's what most people will see... But, I was hoping that the colours in the leaf might represent the real Jack and all his passions and memories to her because she loved the part nobody else knew. And he loved her.
Thanks Jack. Thanks Olivia.
You can find this print in my ARTSHOP or at Hospice & Palliative Care Manitoba.