The Endowment

When my husband, Kevin, died, I did an unusual thing.  In the obituary I indicated to friends and family that in lieu of flowers or donations, we, the family, had set up an endowment fund.  I chose this route for two reasons – first, the cancer society is one of the most exorbitantly funded research and development agencies in the world, from big Pharma to personal donations to government funding, this is a rich industry.  It is already well funded and quite frankly, I don’t believe that the monies resulting from charitable donations go to frontline research in the manner that I would want, they more likely serve to support the extensive administrative overhead.  So consequently, after Kevin died, I didn’t want donations to go to the Cancer Society.  I wanted to find a way to benefit our local community.  Second, and most importantly, I wanted to keep Kevin’s passion for the arts alive and vibrant, to create something tangible in his memory that would endure over time.  The generous contributions of friends and family have made this possible for at least the next 10 years and, as the donations continue to come in, potentially longer.  Remarkable, truly a remarkable response.

The Endowment Fund was established with our local art gallery.  The gallery made a tremendous effort and we were able to present the first award on October 8th.  It was a very well attended evening especially since there were two prizes being awarded: the Carmichael Landscape Prize of $2,500 and Kevin’s Emerging Artist award of $1,000.  The evening turned out even better when a local artist was awarded the Emerging Artist award, and truly, she earned it.  It was a lovely evening, but pulled at the heartstrings, since the very reason for why I was there was really the absolute worst reason.  I was there because Kevin had died and we had set up an award in his memory.  Cause and effect at it’s most basic level.

The emotional impact of these events tends to build up now.  I find that I can get through them for the most part, but they are cumulative. Looking back I realize I used to weep at things as they happened, no reprieve, the tears were not to be put off.  Now, I find that I can make it through an event or function, usually, and the tears find me later, at home.  The tears are different now too, as are the thoughts that go through my mind.  Now I have very specific memories that come to me.  After the art show my memories were of Kevin hunched over his easel, two months before he died, determined to finish a painting despite the fact that he couldn’t lift his right arm.  He adapted and put the canvas on the table and he finished the painting. Then my mind flit to another recent event, the birthday party that Kevin should have been at, and I remembered how, for his buddy’s last birthday in 2014, Kevin had given him a painting; I saw that painting last week at the party. Not exactly light thoughts to have right before bedtime.  Perhaps this is a good topic to discuss at my next grief counselling session – although I don’t think there’s anything that can be done to change it.

What the Heart Holds True

It’s been over three weeks since Kevin died.  Three weeks.  The thing I worry about the most is forgetting.  Forgetting the sound of his voice, his laughter, even, God forbid, his snoring.  I worry that he will forget me, wherever he is.  Will he remember me, our kids, our life together?  I guess I worry about what’s next, what happens when we die?  I am not an overly religious woman, I simply had too much religion pressed upon me during my youth.  I’ve never guided my children towards or away from religion.  I am tolerant of other’s beliefs as long as they stay that – their beliefs – don’t try and make them mine.  But now, now that Kevin’s gone, I wonder, where is he and what is next for him?  I am a little jealous of those around me, participants of some religious order, who have their faith to anchor them and provide them solace and comfort.  Regardless, I am still comfortable with being agnostic, I simply don’t know what is out there, consequently, I can wonder what’s next because it is part of the great unknown.  For me it is a matter of what the heart holds true and this will be different for each and everyone of us.

Today I looked at the cards, letters and notes of sympathy I received.  It’s the first time I’ve been physically and mentally capable of doing this since the funeral.   I also watched the video collage that Kevin’s buddy from school, Stu, had put together and that played during the reception held afterwards.  The video allowed me to hear Kevin’s voice, to watch him through stills and video clips, it gave a chronology of sorts over the years of the broad spectrum of his life.  It was painful to watch beyond a doubt, but at the same time quite joyful.  He was a man that loved people, places, performing, teaching, joking and whatever else life threw at him.  Darwin stated, “A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.”  Kevin valued his friendships and it showed, his friends came out by the hundreds for his funeral.  The support that was given to his Endowment Fund was quite substantial; the Gallery has committed to forwarding me a list of names and addresses by next Monday and I will then start on the thank you cards – I just feel that for me it will be easier to do all the cards at once.

With respect to the Endowment Fund, the Gallery plans on issuing the first Kevin J. Batchelor Award this October so that is fairly exciting news.  It will be part of a national juried art exhibition and Kevin’s award will be specifically for paintings (oil, acrylic, watercolour) by emerging artists of any age, self taught or formally trained.  For the inaugural award I hope to have at least one of my children present the first $1,000 cheque to the 2015 recipient.  We are so thankful for all the financial support that people have provided in this regard.  It is, however, bittersweet to have this award at all, since it is the result of a life lost far too soon.