Today I delivered a portrait to Patty. Patty lives in a facility for special needs adults. She lost her father many years ago to a heart attack. Madeleine is her sister, and she thought that a portrait of her father would be good for Patty, since her own health is failing, and she might find the thought of dying less upsetting if she knows she will once again be with her father. I was afraid at first, that she might not recognize who the portrait was. They wheeled her in and asked her who that was in that picture. She smiled, all teeth and smiley eyes, and said it looked like, “Daddy”. I asked her if she would like to have that in her room there at the facility and she got tears in her eyes and with a huge smile said that she sure would! I told her I heard she was her Daddy’s girl, and she smiled again and very coyly said she was indeed. What an honor. What a great privilege to be part of such a personal moment. I left there in tears. Not tears of sadness, but tears of gratitude for the opportunity placed in front of me to get to know each family a little bit and understand the pain of their loss, but the real privilege is that I get to share in the joy they experience when they see the portrait of their loved one. What a blessing. I am amazed at what God has done with Face to Face and how He has been walking with me/us every step of the way. I am just feeling very thankful and honored and blessed to be a part of this dream that seems to be coming true! If I have to do them for free, I will- because the joy of presenting each one is worth every bit of work, tears shed and missed sleep! Thanks, God!
I was speaking with a friend this evening about grief and the pain of loss. Grief is a great equalizer. Fame, fortune, popularity… none of them help one bit with grief. No matter how successful a person is in their career or life, loss still hits them just as hard as it hits everyone else in the world.
In the same way, all that fame, fortune, success and popularity mean NOTHING at the gates of heaven when we ourselves die. The only thing that matters or makes a difference is one’s faith. The only thing I have found that has lessened the pain of loss, the shattering feeling of despair and horror of life without the one we love… is my faith in God and His absolute wisdom and love for me. I know that my husband is with God, and that is a gift that keeps me going. I know he is in Heaven- a place more glorious than anything we can imagine- and that is comfort. I also know that I will see him once again, and that helps calm my shattered soul. Someday, when my time to die comes- and it will- I will be with those I love, and that also comforts me. If we don’t ever experience the pain of loss, how can we feel the comfort of the Holy Spirit of God? Screaming, “Why?” doesn’t give us any answers.
Accepting that this is God’s Holy Will has been a gift that has kept me sane and helped heal my heart. Others may deal with death in an entirely different way- or maybe they just don’t deal with it at all… but death is our final destination no matter who we are or how successful or unsuccessful our lives have been. Death is THE great equalizer.
Our society is in complete denial about the eventuality of death in our journey. I know, because I felt that way myself at one time. I also know this because I see people who won’t approach me or the subject of my losses because it is a slap in their face- if it could happen to me, it could happen to them. Wake up, world. We are all on a precious journey that is fragile and precipitous. The end of the journey is the death of our mortal body. Am I ready should it come knocking at my door? Are you? That is the question of the day. Pretending it just isn’t going to happen to ME is ridiculous and makes our pain of loss that much worse. My friend lost her entire family very tragically. She said to me that some people ask, “Why Me?” but she has come to the realization that for her it is, “Why NOT me?” Is being a good person enough to lessen the pain? No, I don’t think so. Death levels that playing field we all run on so that no one has an advantage. We are all heading toward that final destination and if we have not embraced our faith, really, will there ever be any comfort for our souls when we lose someone else or even our own life?
The most rewarding part of doing portraits for Face to Face is the face of each recipient when presented with the portrait of their loved one. Most have tears in their eyes seeing the person they love so much memorialized and honored. The look of love and their gratitude that they show when they receive their gift is beyond what words can convey.
I struggle with funding for this outreach, and some days I wonder whether I am half crazy to be doing this instead of searching for work and a regular income. I have to deal with my own grief as well as experiencing the grief of each family when I draw their portrait. I believe that the Holy Spirit gives me a glimpse of each family’s pain so that I can pray for them and so that I will work with compassion in my heart. I doubt myself at times and I doubt God’s willingness to provide the funding that we need. After what I have been through with my three losses in 60 days and how bizarre the circumstances were, I know, I know, I shouldn’t doubt that God allowed all of that to happen so that I could move forward with Face to Face. My finances have been pretty bleak and I am questioning God about that as well. Then, just as I am in despair, another door opens and a donation comes in that funds another drawing. One after another, and when I get the opportunity to present them, it is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. To be able to help someone who has been through what I have and sometimes worse is what makes it worth it all. If only everyone could see the look on their faces, they would all be wanting to donate more. If only…
I have been asked about the inspiration for this project. Why do I want to provide free portraits for individuals who have lost someone to a sudden, unexpected or tragic death?
In the spring of 2012 my life was shaken beyond anything I could imagine. First, my closest sister Lisa was stricken with a malignant brain tumor. In five months we watched her decline and go from being a vibrant wife, mother and grandmother to an individual who could no longer walk or speak coherantly. She died on March 17th and I thought my world was shaken pretty hard with her loss. She was my best friend and closest confidant.
At the same time, my 86 year old mother was rapidly declining in health. After 20 years of being a pancreatic cancer survivor, she had lost the ability to digest food and was fed by a Jtube for 2 1/2 years, drinking only coffee and not eating. She had rallied so many times in the last five years that we doubted she would ever die, but after Lisa died my mother’s system was shutting down for good. She surrendered and died on May 8th. At the funeral onMay 12th we all commented that the following Saturday would be a good time to look forward to because it was my son’s wedding day. My world for sure had been rocked with this second loss.
On May 19th, the day of the wedding, my husband of 33 years and the father of our five children did not wake up. He died in his sleep. It was a huge trauma but we went forward with the wedding. Within 60 days my world had been turned upside down and smashed.
Out of these ashes a dream became reality with Face to Face Fine Art Commemorative Expressions. Several months prior to these losses I had decided to find a way to provide fine art portraits to individuals who had lost someone. I had been a portrait artist for over 40 years, and the most rewarding portraits were memorials that were commissioned by family members to commemorate the lives of their loved ones. I had prayed over those portraits, asking God to bless the recipients and help them heal from their losses.
After my own losses, I now know first hand what grief and the pain of a sudden loss are. Our hope, in providing these portraits free of charge is to aid and comfort the bereaved by keeping the memory of their loved one alive. We hope that the artwork will aid in the healing process.
Funding for this project comes from donations and grants. We appreciate those who have joined with me and my Board of Directors to help heal the broken-hearted and help them survive the shock and trauma of an unexpected death.
Our Board of Directors and Founder at “Meet FACE TO FACE – A Wine and Cheese Event” on May 19, 2013
Face to Face provides portraits that are much more than pictures on the wall. They are lasting memorials that forever portray the grace, dignity and beauty of each subject and keep their memory alive for generations to come. – Sandy Mikesell, Osceola, IN
This drawing does such an amazing job of capturing Brandon’s character. It is amazing that you were able to produce the level of likeness without ever knowing Brandon this side of Heaven. Renee and I see Brandon in this picture. Kevin Huseman -Lowell, IN
“I miss my sister so much but this portrait of her is so special to me. We were very close in age and when I look at her image in the portrait I can almost hear her voice in my head telling me that all is well.” -Susan Zimmerman, Granger, IN
The portrait of my “Ninny” White is just the way I will always remember her. She was unable to eat for the last two years of her life, but she managed to drink a cup of coffee every day! She was always dressed with jewelry and shoes to match her outfit. This captures her “sparkle” completely!” Rhonda Miller- Avon, Indiana
“The portrait of our daughter Jeanine has brought us much joy. We can remember her now as the beautiful young woman that we knew and loved thanks to this gift.” -Julie Sheridan, Plainfield, IL