Years ago when I was a painter and my own children had grown out of being my model/muses, a dear friend allowed her two daughters to pose for me as models for potential future paintings. We made an afternoon of it – snapping photos outside in a couple of locations, ordering pizza for lunch, and topping off all the fun with ice cream sundaes. Afterward, I created two different paintings from that session, one of which I gave to my friend, Brenda, and one of which I kept…for a while.
Soon after, I donated my painting of the girls to the hospital I work for. It was placed outside the pediatric playroom, which just so happens to be near the entrance to the neonatal intensive care unit, where I’ve been a nurse for the past 23 years. It gave me a special feeling to see that painting in the hallway as I went about my workdays and even more so after Brenda passed away several years ago when her daughters were still young.
Not too long ago I spent two days orienting a new nurse to our unit. On the second day, in the break room, quilting and creativity came up in conversation (of course!) and someone mentioned to Justin that I had done the painting hanging outside the unit. He looked astonished and then gave me one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten as an artist by telling me this story:
During his pediatric rotation in nursing school, he had been having a particularly sad and discouraging day – sad because of a young patient he was caring for and discouraging because of the helplessness he felt. Coming out of the playroom after checking on a child there, he was struck by the gaze of the girl in the painting. He stood there in contemplation for quite awhile, thinking that those girls looked like they had seen hardships and they were telling him that everything would be okay.
Let me tell you, my heart grew 3 sizes right then…because the artist in me has always wanted to make more than just pretty pictures. Hearing that someone’s heart and mind had actually been moved by my work was literally music to my ears. It was an incredible affirmation.
Recently our pediatric unit underwent renovations and all wall art was removed for the duration. When renovations were completed and the painting did not reappear, I inquired about it. A fear of mine that had developed over time was that the painting would end up discarded or in storage and I couldn’t shake the thought that there were two girls and two paintings and they all belonged together.
Bless my manager, Sarah, as she had seen the painting in storage and requested to have it back in order to do with it whatever I wished. I knew the answer to that. Despite having lost track of the girls since their mother’s funeral, I was able to find them both (social media 🙂 ). Ashley had relocated to Atlanta but Jazmine was just an hour and a half away and we made a plan to meet for lunch.
Jazmine and I talked for a long time, catching up on lots of things, including her hopes and goals. I was impressed by her warmth, honesty, and resilience. She’ll be joining her sister soon in Georgia, where they both will pursue college and careers. I know their mother would be very proud of the young women they’ve become.
So the painting has found it’s way home, finally. It was a full circle journey that somehow seems like it was always meant to be. My soul is satisfied.