It is almost a year since I met the artist, Sindy Lorraine Strosahl. She came to my house on April 30th, a rainy Wednesday, to deliver my painting, Healing Companion. I knew of Sindy through my midwife who had one of her paintings of a pregnant woman in her office. I fell in love with the vibrant colors and decided that I would like to have an image to commemorate my two pregnancies, especially since I was childless for 15 years in what feels like another lifetime.
When we received news of our daughter’s fatal condition, I messaged Sindy and told her. She meditated and connected to the soul of my unborn child and painted the image that you see here. When Sindy went to her car to get the painting, the torrential downpour stopped long enough for her to walk into my house. Healing Companion is a mixed-media collage. Sindy cut out pieces of the pages of a gardening book. I was so excited when I saw words in Mary Rose’s and my hair. My dress is fabric that she painted. The 3-D view of this image, with the ancestors as yellow orbs surrounding me, is so powerful that almost everyone who see the original walks away with tears in her eyes.
One painting. One mother. One child. Sometimes I feel like a grain of sand in a vast lineage of mothers whose children have died. Who am I to think that this should not have happened? Loss and death are all around us though we choose to ignore it much of the time. Sometimes babies die. Sometimes children die. Mary Rose lived and died. But that word, Companion, is so real. She is here with me. Her DNA is in my body. I think of her often throughout the day as I take care of my son, as I wash a cup or spend time outside watching my plants blossom. She is my companion and my heart center feels her soul is as alive as any of our souls.
Sindy, who also photographed Mary Rose’s birth and witnessed her brief life, is now a doula. Mary Rose changed my life she says. And she’s not the only one. Healing Companion has comforted many mothers. The print hangs in a birthing center in Michigan, the card is in an apartment in Romania. I like to think of a web connecting the mothers who gaze at this image remembering their children. And we are their mothers still. Some women do not birth living children. Some women do not have any living children. For many these challenging pregnancies are their first. I am honored that my request for this painting is helping others.
It has taken me some time to acknowledge that the pregnant woman in Healing Companion is strong and graceful, that perhaps I am strong and graceful as Sindy painted me. In the painting, I am perfectly centered and focused on my pregnancy and baby. I neither felt strong during my pregnancy nor did I feel graceful as I limped around in extreme back pain for the last weeks waiting for my baby girl, still or breathing. But sometimes I catch a glimpse of my resolve in the image, and sometimes I feel that perfect peace knowing that everything is as it should be. Mary Rose, at my side; my three-year old son holding my hand, leading me to his train tracks once again.
This morning I had a few messages from my friend, Isabel, whose brother and sister-in-law are in labor today. Their daughter, Grace Miriam, has many challenges and may not live long. I lit two candles for this baby today and cried remembering Mary Rose’s birth in a pool under Healing Companion. Did I mention that Sindy was trying to paint an androgynous, adult angel, but the image that emerged persisted? Mary Rose looked like that angel, so much like her father. I hope that Grace Miriam’s life is a blessing for all those who encounter her. Her parents are courageous and loving. They are waiting to embrace her, no matter what she looks like, no matter what her condition.
And at the end of our lives, what will we remember? Not what we ate today or what show we watched, or who we did or didn’t call, but that endless and boundless love that flows from our Creator, the love that lives in each of us with potential to grow and bear much fruit throughout our days, whether they are few or many.
(Prints and cards can be purchased through the link on the Resources page of this blog. And no, I do not profit financially from any of these sales.)