The Christmas Cards

I got the Christmas cards ready to go today; I am hoping to have them in the mail by Wednesday.  I decided to use the last sketch that Kevin worked on.  He drew it in February of this year.  He had to resort to drawing instead of painting; his range of mobility was just too restricted.  I recall how frustrated he was by his inability to hold his arm up to paint on his easel.  In December, Kevin had started a large oil on canvas, 36″ x 36″, and he was determined to finish it.  He ended up using a variety of chairs, easel angles and just basically took his time.  He finished the painting in January, and at that point picked up his sketch book to give his arm and shoulder a rest.  We didn’t know it at the time but the bone cancer was literally throughout his entire body.

He managed to do two more pieces in February: a sketch that I used for this year’s Christmas card, and a small watercolour in a sketchbook.  For both of these last pieces it was a push for him; on most days he would work about 15 to 20 minutes and then take a break for an hour or two – then he’d be right back at it.  The physical effort was huge and he would be quite sore, even though it didn’t seem like much effort, it was for him.  I walk by his studio and I can still see him in my mind’s eye.  Hunched over at his table, surrounded by jars, books, paper, paint brushes.  He worked best in chaos.  I’ve left his room intact.  I’ve tidied it up a bit, but not much.  It’s just too early and too hard to even try at this point.

So as I prep this year’s card I wonder at the fact that the sketch I use is one of the last pieces Kevin drew – painstakingly, deliberately.  The image is simple, but when I see it, the numbers of figures in the card match the number of members in my family, children and grandchildren.  The central figure is like the phoenix rising from the ashes.  I wonder if there isn’t a subliminal message there for all that knew him.  He may be gone in one form but, perhaps, has taken shape in another.  Fanciful I know, but believe me, when you walk this path you find that you look for small wonders and small mercies.