Shall we speak then, of my tragedy? It's not a sore subject, to say the least. I have had some time now, to reconcile the facts within myself, and to accept my husband's death in due course. But to know me truly as an artist, is also to know this most terrible thing that has ever happened to me. It was a turning point in my life that has made me who I am today. And it is from this experience that my sculptures are born.
Tis not pretty, and so I forewarn you and ask that you not feel pity for me. What has happened, I have lived beyond. Stories come in all sorts. Some are fairy tales, some are fiction, some are tragedies. But at the root, they are all stories which move us in one way or another.
My story moves me forward....
September 11, 1998.
The receptionist didn't seem worried. The doctor didn't seem worried. No one seems worried except me. I wake the children and dress them. Put my husband's shoes on because he cannot bend over without grimacing. Walk ever so slowly to the 4Runner. "Please drive slower, it hurts," he asks, and so I do. Stopping at all the red lights. Creeping into the parking lot. As we're passing the guard shack he says, "I'm gonna be sick," and his eyes roll back in his head...his arms fling out to the sides, knocking the backwards baseball hat emblazoned with the words "Not Scared" right off my head...
Quickly! Quickly now! Brakes
wailing like banshees as I screech to a stop outside the emergency room
doors. Children screaming, " What's the matter with Daddy! He's turning
into a monster! DADDY! " Trying to wrestle him out of the truck, but he's
stuck there....drawing deep gasping breaths, eyes focused on some
unseen point on the roof. Running. Running. Children screaming louder.
But I've got to leave them alone with him. No time! BAM! through the Emergency
Room doors. "HELP!!! My husband is having a heart attack right outside
the door! I need a doctor!" Back outside.
No one comes out to help.
No good-byes. None are necessary.
My son's face. I saw the minute he realized that all these white coats were saying his daddy was never coming home ever again. He was looking at me as if to say, "Mommy, please make it not true." I saw the way his cheeks scrinched up and his eyes clamped shut -- right before the howl.
I felt it then. Something closed
in me. And the warrior came to the surface. It had to. I was alone
now. No husband. My entire family hundreds of miles away. My in-laws a
thousand miles away. Just me. Alone. My entire existence changed in one
swift moment. Turned on a dime. Suddenly, I got taller. And something
inside me said, this WILL NOT beat me. I am a WARRIOR! And as I pushed
through the white coats, and took hold of my children I vowed to myself
that we would survive, and be happy.
He is thirty-six. I am thirty-six.
I am widowed. They are fatherless.
Well, for some of us, that moment comes in the form of a loss. Especially a sudden death that brings home in an instant everything that is really truly important to us. You see, the meaning of life is simply this - LOVE.
My husband's name was H. Craig Bryant. He and I had been soulmates, married for the better part of 13 years. I met him on Christmas day, at the home of a dear friend of mine who would later become my brother-in-law, and it was the proverbial love at first sight. He came to visit me on New Year's Eve - and never left. Well, that is until death did us part...
I cannot decide whether or not it was a blessing in disguise that the family was all together when it happened. It was a blessing that we were with him as he died, and maybe not a blessing that my children are still recovering from the experience of it - as am I.
For months afterwards, I had difficulty sleeping. There was suddenly so much empty time to fill and so much grief to process, and as all of my family lives out of state, I was going it alone. All in all, it made for some pretty endless nights. Then my mother, who knows me best, came to the rescue with a simple gift.
My salvation came in the guise of a box of clay. It was pretty innocuous, lying there on my coffee table for weeks - a bunch of brightly colored rectangles that Mom claimed I could knead my grief into as I watched inane TV till the wee hours of the morning. She called to the artist in me, and hoped this small gift would inspire me to create something beautiful from my pain. How many artists throughout history have done just that?
Death touches all of us at some point in our lives. And when it happens, we have two choices, really. We can either drown ourselves in an ocean of grief or we can swim for the shore. A very wise man I know says that the best thing you can do about death is ride off from it. And he's right. So late one night, I took clay in hand and began my journey back to joy.
I was worried, not so much about the fact that I had never sculpted anything before, but more about what I would turn out. I wondered if it would be some awful grieving howling thing, considering the experiences of the time. You see, when I pick up the clay, I don't really know what I am about to create. It's more like watching what is born from the raw material as my fingers push and pull it.
That night, under my hands, a face began to take shape. And when I saw the abject joy in its features I knew for the first time that I really - truly - was going to be alright. I found hope in the fact that such a character was still inside of me. That there might be more joy yet to be uncovered. I finished that piece in one night, and baptized him "Acceptance", because it seemed my turning point. And ever since, each piece I create erases a little bit of my grief, and releases a little bit more of my joy.
I have accepted Craig's death, and am slowly riding off from it, yet not from him. Sculpting frees my mind to wander through my memories, and my love for him is alive in each piece I create. Some of my sculptures contain real tears, kneaded into the clay, although I'll never tell which ones.
When Craig died, I thought his death premature. How could he leave so quickly when he was so darned young? But the creation of "Acceptance" taught me this: Society constitutes death as a failure, and we try to keep our people alive as long as we can, by whatever means. But death is not a failure to those who die - only to those of us left behind. To their soul, death is a relief - a release - a time to let go of the body and free the soul for other pursuits.
All of our lives we believe we are our bodies, looking out from behind our eyes. Sometimes we believe we are our minds, but it is only at the time of death that we find out who we truly are. We are not just bodies which contain our souls till death. Instead, we are souls who inhabit these bodies for a time until we are reborn in our next existence.
So we must understand when someone chooses to let go of life, whether consciously, or subconsciously, and at whatever age. We must accept their soul's decision, and that allows us to move forward into our own lives with joy. It allows us to celebrate our time with that loved one, and to believe that it is quite alright to find happiness again without them.
As you meander through my site,
celebrate with me that it constitutes a journey of self healing. And should
one of my pieces move you in such a way that you decide to own it, then
you honor me, and I thank you. I am blessed that something born from this
love and these two hands should bring joy to you...
May you walk in peace and beauty.