Capture Your Grief Day 26: Their Age

Oh, how little time we had, in retrospect. At the time it seemed endless, every day seemed like it would never end, like the time we had with her could stretch on and on if we just hoped enough and prayed enough. We were so tired and weary with the not knowing, with the endless cycle of different doctors projecting a possible diagnosis that always came up empty, giving everyone more questions than answers. We wondered if we would have to make hard decisions her whole life, if she would ever have a chance to be “a normal kid” or would it be test after test after procedure for the next few years. We couldn’t know we would not even have a month with her. If we could have known how little time we had, we would have done everything differently – and yet there isn’t one thing I think I would change, except I would have held her. I would have brushed my caution aside and held her every minute I could, I would have savored every second.

At the time I cried over her skin, I cried over whether or not her hair might ever grow with the deep damage to her scalp. I wondered if she would ever be normal or if kids would tease her. I spent so much time pumping milk, away from her, pumping milk that she never got to drink. In the end, nobody ever got to use that love I pumped so fervently, somebody in the NICU threw it away even as I was trying to make arrangements to donate it to a bank. (That was yet another loss I had to mourn in the face of losing my daughter, somebody carelessly throwing away my love, my nurturing, my tears and sleeplessness and broken dreams from breasts that would never hold my baby close to them, tender mommy moments that would never be. That alone was so devastating for me when the nurse called me, tears in her own voice, to tell me what had happened.)

All of it seems so unimportant now in the face of what I know. I had only 17 days with my daughter in this world outside the womb, and I will not get one day back to do over.

A whole lifetime in 17 short days.

Capture Your Grief Day 5: Memorial

There are several memorials scattered around middle and western Kentucky, Skye’s head stone on her grave, a memory brick in the Bi-Centennial Garden in Salem Kentucky, the place of her Daddy’s family roots and the tiny town where she is buried, and of course the hearts of her family, especially the few people who got to meet her while she lived.

Josh and I have moved so much to pursue career opportunities for him that we have yet to settle down and really feel like we’ve found a home and put down roots, so I’m very glad Skye was able to be buried in Salem in the little cemetery shared by family. It is a place we will always make at least an annual pilgrimage to no matter where we move or live because that is where we celebrate the Holidays with his side of the family.

However, I believe the greatest and farthest reaching memorial I have is one that travels with me no matter where I am and that is Skye Blue, my online store and community on Facebook that has supported my art. Everything I make at Skye Blue is inspired by my daughter, even the name is inspired by her. I make a lot of grief and child loss related items and custom memorial items for grieving parents as well as every day home decor and non-grief related art. Even the regular items are inspired by her though, she taught me many things, but one of the biggest things I carried away from losing Skye was that you can’t wait for a convenient moment in life to do anything, if it is important to you, seize the day and do what you love.

Making art, working from home, and being an everyday part of my kids lives as a stay at home mom – those are all dreams I had long before my daughter lived and died, but she was the one who helped me realize that things that important to me couldn’t wait, I had to jump in and make it happen, the details would work themselves out.

Every day as I sit at my table creating, or pack up an order, or post pictures to Facebook, or even just take Faith to the park or lay and feeling Gavin kicking in my belly, those are moments I think of Skye. I’m thankful for the things she taught me. I’m glad that I’m young with lots of time ahead of me, but if my life were to be shortened unexpectedly, (nobody is guaranteed one day or hour) I would go with peace knowing I lived every day being alive, not just going through the motions, and I tried to remember what was truly important. That is a grand memorial, her legacy, and it touches many people every day. I am humbled by the messages from people who have been touched in some way by Skye Blue. It comforts me to be reminded that Skye is more alive right now than she could ever be in her mortal body and that gives me hope for my future also. This life is just the beginning friends.

This “Beauty From A Broken Heart” sculpture is just like the ones I make at Skye Blue, this one bears her name and birth date etched into it. The base is a broken heart and the peace lilies grow from the broken cracked middle.

Finding Myself

I am in the process of finding my style as an artist and experimenting with different techniques. You would not believe how hard it is to clear your mind of any idea or preconceived notion of what is acceptable and just paint. Blank canvas, emotion, – paint! I believe it is necessary for me to do this in order to find out who I really am in my art work. I am trying not to worry about the finished out come, what people will think, if I’ll like the finished product, I’m transferring the emotion of the moment onto my canvas and watching it evolve under the brush.

 I have always shied away from “modern art” in the past because my logical inner voice told me there was no picture. However, as I am maturing and growing into my present and future self, I find I can look at a painting for more than just its picture or likeness to a known object or place. I can look at a painting and feel it’s emotion.

 I was in 440  Main yesterday for lunch and before I left, I walked around the restaurant and examined the paintings by a local artist that are for sale on consignment. They are all various degrees of abstract in character. Some of them are identifiable as something familiar – a trio of pears, an oyster on the half shell, wine glasses. They were all beautiful in their own way, but one stood out to me from the rest. I found it almost odd that this painting stood out to me considering my past conceptions. It was large, probably about four feet square, and it was simply streaks of paint applied to the canvas with a knife. There were rough, raised areas, different colors, some blended and others standing out alone, and no picture whatsoever, just paint on canvas. I looked at it and loved it immediately but could not pinpoint why. It was so free, simple and yet complex, soothing and exciting all at the same time. I would hang it on my wall at home if I had several hundred to spend on a painting. I don’t know why, it just spoke to me and I liked it.

 I determined yesterday as I looked at that painting that I wanted to be free too, I wanted to let my emotions flow through the brush and speak to somebody through my work. I realized for the first time with not just my head, but my heart, that there is no “wrong” or “stupid” art. There is only art in many forms. Who hasn’t looked at a child’s drawing and found something to love in its simplicity and unrealistic lines? Children are perhaps the purest of artists because they draw and paint what they feel. They create art with their own interpretation and not in the confines of what society accepts or how the rest of us view perfection. If they have the inkling to make the flower blue and the sky red, that’s what they do.

 I think we should be more like children in the sense that if we feel something, we should let that flow into our work.  Sometimes that will transfer into a tranquil scene, and sometimes it will be angry splashes of bold colors. Either interpretation is acceptable because somewhere there is a person who will see it and it will speak to them personally, and really, that is all we hope for as artists.

"The Earth Without Form, and Void"

Answering the Call

 It never ceases to amaze me how creativity flows from an individual’s soul as if controlled by some other force.

 I have many forms of creative expression that I’m familiar with. I paint, sing, play piano, write poetry and prose, garden, and just create in general when ever the moment presents itself. It just bubbles out of me in whatever form is convenient at the moment. I can’t disobey the call and I can’t force inspiration. I can try, but in either case I end up frustrated and stymied.

 The major form of creativity for me in the past was writing songs and playing my piano. At that time, I was going through a very hard emotional trial in addition to the already awkward years of puberty and young adulthood.  I found music an effective outlet for my emotions. I’ve mentioned before that I’m the type to bottle things up, and when I was fit to burst, I would turn to my music. At first I listened to other peoples’ music, songs that had deep lyrics that I could relate to. Then I began teaching myself to play the piano by ear and soon I was writing my own songs from my own heart. I would shut myself in my room, sit down to fiddle with the keys, and a melody would emerge that pulled at my soul, usually in minors with a soaring chorus. I always kept a notebook and pen handy to write the words that tumbled from my head seemingly out of nowhere. Sometimes it would take hours, sometimes only minutes, but I’ve written so many songs that even after forgetting half of them, I could fill several albums with the remainder.

 I don’t really take credit for these songs, many of which have touched some of my listeners to tears. Reading the lyrics I’d just written, almost every time, was like reading something someone else wrote because I could not tell you where they came from. They flowed beautifully and even as I watched them being marked onto the paper, it was almost like an out of body experience, like someone had taken control of my mind and hand. It is hard to explain. I was only a teenage girl. I was no Aristotle, no Homer, just a young, uncertain, ordinary girl. It did not make sence that I had composed such profound and deep words and put them to music resulting in something so heart wrenching.

 I don’t write music very much these days. I no longer have my piano, the one that has seen me through anger and tears, that has helped me express my pain and grief and joy. I have sat down to other pianos since losing mine and while it is nice, it’s just not the same. It’s like starting over with a new friend, having to give them your history and help them understand what makes you tick, when your old friend already knows because they’ve been there with you through it all. Perhaps down the road I will invest in a new “friendship”, but for now, my preferred method of expression is painting.

 Once again, it is as if the brush is controled by another force other than my own as I apply paint to my canvas. I sit down to paint with a very clear idea of what I will do, but somehow the finished picture is completely different from what I’d envisioned. In the past when I felt the subject matter shifting in mid stride I always fought it, trying to bring it back under control and many times I was frustrated and dissatisfied with my picture. Having recently gotten back into painting on a regular basis, I determined to just paint, not fight the inspiration.

 I sat down this evening to a blank canvas. I fully intended to paint a wood stove with a steaming kettle sitting on it, a familiar sight for me growing up. Perhaps some logs of wood by the stove, and a little more realistic feel since I’d been doing so much abstract stuff lately. No sooner had I picked up the brush when a new picture flashed across my mind. I saw golden roses with long thin thorns wrapped around a faceless female figure on a dark background. She was wearing the thorny roses like clothing and there were some other details that remained a bit cloudy, but I knew they would become clearer as I went, so I started brushing on the background. However, a mistake and a blotchy cover up later, I found a tree emerging under my brush. It had a long, skinny trunk and was ghostly bluish-white. Yet another picture, it had abstract qualities and perhaps a little brook…

 My finished picture does not even look like that last idea, but I am pleased and satisfied with my work. My creativity has been indulged and expressed, and I’ve found that for me, that must be done in some form every single day in order for me to stay cheerful and to keep depression at bay.

 I believe the more demons and closeted skeletons a person has, the more often they must indulge their creative outlets. I also believe that every person has a creative side. In one form or another, creativity is part of the human function. Perhaps you haven’t found your form yet, or maybe you have been fighting it instead of letting it flow. Let go and just paint, even if you don’t have a clue what to paint. Or sing at the top of your lungs without being self-conscious of other people listening or being in the right key. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, and even your knees, plant a few seeds and tend them carefully. Watch them grow into a neat little garden full of the things that reflect your personality. Pull out all the stops, create and be creative. I promise you will find it enjoyable, surprising, and it will inspire even more creativity in yourself and the people around you.