The A Graceful Death Exhibition and Project by Antonia Rolls is about what it means to die. Portraits, paintings and words from the end of life. Powerful, moving, loving, uplifting, inspiring. The A Graceful Death Project includes talks, presentations, discussions, events connected to awareness raising of end of life issues. The latest news, exhibitions, events and developments will be available here.
My Dublin Hosts had an email from their family friend, Isabel, in Canada, on being invited to the exhibition of A Graceful Death in Dublin. It would have been very amazing if this friend could have come, as she lives so far away. This is her reply, and I have her permission to include it, because I think she absolutely got the whole idea of the exhibition. I thought Isabel's reply was incredibly insightful and thoughtful. Here it is. Thank you Isabel. And thank you Brian, who gave his permission for us to know about how his wife died her graceful death. A quick note - I am known as Toni to some, Antonia to others. Toni in this account, is me.
"Wow, I wish I was there. It is rare in my experience for people to address death openly, acceptingly. But art is such a wonderful venue for difficult subjects; I'm certain your exhibition will be so much more than just an "art show". I'd love to be a fly on the wall...
Even as I check out her blog, view some of her paintings, I think of the only person I know personally who has been open, vulnerable and somehow inclusive in how he's dealt with death. And I feel compelled to tell you; oddly, because of Toni's paintings and your hosting of her works. My friend Brian's wife died from a quickly metastizing throat cancer that felled her within three months. He brought her home when they knew the time was close. She lived in a hospital bed that they set up in her room. On the day of her death, knowing her time was obviously rapidly approaching, he put her in her favourite dress, played her favourite music, and her family was all there, surrounding her. They all said goodbye, they all talked with her, laughed and wept at her bedside until she finally slipped away. I was moved by the way she ended her life, with dignity and love, despite her pain and difficulty in leaving her children, her step-children, her husband, her life. He shares that information willingly; while not at peace with her end, he embraces it wholly. I've come closer to acceptance of "the end", in his relating of her story, of her death.
Because death seems to be treated so mystically by religion and society, or brutally by the media, or without a thought (in denial) by people like me, the living, it's something special to see a person's life's end portrayed so gently, so clearly and transparently, and with a certain rawness, a reality, that I for one don't usually see. what appears potentially to have originated from a need to express one's grief (by Toni), seems to have become a gift, not only from the artist to the viewer, but also from the dying to the living. That these people are willing to share such vulnerability at such a time...to remove the taboo, to create something transcendental from such a painful experience; that's an awe-inspiring gift. I hope the gift was somehow returned to the givers, those that allowed themselves to be observed in their final hours. And to Toni, who portrays them in their "graceful death".
This, all this, from the simple viewing of an artist's blog because of your most appreciated (but unfortately declined!) invitation. I wonder what kind of cathartic sharing will occur at your exhibition...I expect it will have been a very moving weekend."
Isabel, and Brian, thank you. I hope we meet again one day.
A Graceful Death Exhibition in Dublin. Emotional, Spiritual and Important
Steve over the fire, and me on the easle. This is the main room where the A Graceful Death paintings were shown. Visitors were welcomed into the house, and guided to this room and when they were ready, left to wander at their ease and in their own time amongst the images and words. When they were finished, they came through into the kitchen and had tea, cake, wine and the warmth of other people.
I am home from Dublin, having left the paintings stored in Dublin before they are taken to the next exhibitionin Manchester in February 2011. I am very tired and need to reflect on how the exhibition went, and what to do from here. It is good to be home, it gives me the distance I need to think over the past 6 days in Ireland, and the experience of showing the paintings to a new audience in a new country.
It was a very profound few days. To recap, my dear kind friends in Dublin offered to show the exhibition in their house. They live in a large house they designed and had built themselves, in a leafy and quiet area of Dublin. It was to be an invitation only exhibition. My Dublin Friends had never done anything like this before, and were keen to make the exhibition and the experience work to the best of their abilities and to the A Graceful Death's benefit. We opened on the Thursday, and packed up on the following Monday afternoon. My Dublin Friends put their hearts and souls into making it work, and created one of the most successful exhibitions I have yet had.
My Hosts had worked tirelessly to contact the people they thought would appreciate an exhibition concerned with death and dying, of life and bereavement and love and hope and how we survive our losses. They designed the invitations, they designed the brochures and they organised the wine, the teas, the cakes. They contacted everyone that they could and followed up each call, they spent time and effort on making sure they covered all avenues to the people they thought needed to come and see the exhibition. They even arranged, through a lovely PR friend of theirs, for a radio interview for me to speak about the exhibition to Alan Stanford on 4fm on the Saturday morning Culture Club programme.
The Jesus on the Tube exhibition was under the stairs, in this space. This shows how light and peaceful the house is and how gentle the experience of visiting A Graceful Death was in this setting.
The exhibition worked so very well because most of those who came were expected. We were extremely busy, and I found working as a team with my Dublin Hosts was absolutely wonderful. We had put up three exhibitions. Alongside the A Graceful Death was a small display of Jesus on the Tubes, which went down very well. And in the kitchen, there were displays of the Every Day Angels paintings that were light hearted and fun. It was important to have something lively and colourful when coming out of experiencing the A Graceful Death paintings, and to sit in the kitchen having tea and cakes next to gentle,bright and every day Angels, because that is the time to talk and tell one's story. In the safety and calm of the kitchen, crying can be a more comforting experience, with the gentle reassurance of every day life around you. And people do need to talk after seeing the paintings. Some need to cry, some need to be listened to, some need to say things that they could not say before. The time to be with someone who cares is in the kitchen after the exhibition. My Dublin hosts knew this and prepared tea, sat with their guests, offered wine, listened and welcomed everyone to their home.
Jesus on the Tube under the Stairs.
My Dublin Friend has married a very good and kind man, and they were my Hosts. My Dublin Friend has a remarkable Mother in Law, whom I want to mention here. Mother in Law is a trained bereavement counsellor, and is well known for her kindness, insight and patience. My Dublin Hosts live at the bottom of the Parents-in-Law's garden where they have built this gracious, light and spacious home. So Dublin Friend's Mother in Law spent her time caring gently for people at the exhibition, and bringing down lunches and suppers for all of us in the house in her spare time, and generally being the most wonderful support. It is worth mentioning that most of the people who came to the exhibition either knew or knew of Mother in Law, so well respected is she for her work and kindess.
The kitchen, where we sat amongst the Every Day Angels and ate amazing cake and drank tea, talking if we needed to, just thinking if that was what we wanted.
The Angels sold well, and this is what is left of them on the pink wall. Note the red and white spotty table cloth and the cake stand with cup cakes. A work of art in itself.
I met very good people. I met members of the clergy. Our first guest was a local priest, a very sensitive and kind man. We had members from such organisations as the Bethany Bereavement Support Group, the Cancer Society, Local Hospices, the Irish Hospice Foundation, bereavement counsellors, doctors, nurses, a very likeable director of an Undertaking firm, members of the Glasnevin Trust, a lovely author and psychologist from the De Mello Institute who very kindly gave me a copy of his book which I am enjoying and appreciating greatly.
And I have the next lady to paint as a Survivor. The most energetic and inspiring lady arrived at the exhibition, with a similar story to mine, though she was married for 20 years before she lost her husband. She too is hoping to make a positive contribution to the world following her husband's death. She is very much the Survivor, and I hope to goodness she lets me paint her. We did speak of it, and she would make a wonderful picture. There was too, another very inspirational lady who wrote a small book of poetry and diary entries and mixed media art work after her husband of 48 years died. I was given this book which was heartfelt and wonderful and pognant to read, by the Bethany Bereavement Support Group (a very remarkable organisation, some of whom I was delighted to meet). I have not yet asked this lady, but gosh, she would make a fantastic portrait of a Survivor too. Two new paintings, if I get the go-ahead to paint them, for Manchester next February.
After this showing of A Graceful Death, I absolutely realise that I can't do this alone any more. I simply could not have done anything if it wasn't for my Dublin Hosts, and the effect of having them work with me and understand the whole reason for showing the paintings, makes me see I will always need this kind of input for the A Graceful Death exhibitions. I can't do this alone. Thinking back, I never have had to do it alone. Clarissa de Wend Fenton did her utmost for the exhibition when she showed it in February in Wimbledon. Eileen Rafferty, the photographer, has recorded the images and helped out wherever she can. I have had donations from many people for the AGD Fund to help with costs and expenses. My cousin Maddy has always helped, and got her whole family to make my house into an exhibition space for the first showing ever, here, last year. Alan Bedford has given me a strong arm to lean on when I needed nothing but strength. So many others have, and do, help. So many people make this a success. And now, because of its growing success, I need help more than ever. I absolutely need donations and sponsorship to cover the costs of maintaining, growing and producing A Graceful Death. I need like minded people to help set this exhibition up in places where there is strength, undersanding, help, love, kindness and life, so that we can talk of our experiences of Death, and how it is to Go On, to Survive. This exhibition of A Graceful Death deals with how we approach Dying, and then - how we approach Living. We who are left. Email me if you can help on firstname.lastname@example.org.
So far, Dublin has responded to the exhibition with grace and recognition. I am wondering what the difference is from reactions I have had in the UK, and I think there is no difference. The reactions in the UK perhaps were more tearful, maybe there were recent bereavements that came to the surface when the exhibition showed there. Here, in Dublin, the people who have come to see the A Graceful Death exhibition, have been wise, thoughtful and responsive.
The exhibition as you know, is a private exhibition, attended by invite only. This is because my wonderful Dublin friends are making their house over into a gallery for A Graceful Death paintings and poetry to be shown. They have created the most glorious gallery, as did Clarissa de Wend Fenton in Wimbledon when she transformed her home into a gallery for A Graceful Death in February last year. Here in Dublin, the house is very open plan and feels a little Japanese. It is large and light, and so the paintings hang in light, space and warmth. The pale wooden floors and window frames add a freshness to the environment in which the paintings hang and work very well indeed with the subject of dying, bereavement, love, life and hope.
We have hung a small exhibition of Jesus on the Tube paintings under the stairs here, which looks fun and upbeat, and in the kitchen we have made an exhibition of Every Day Angels, which is full of humour and lightness. It is important to mention that one of the walls in this large and friendly kitchen is deep rose pink. That is exactly my kind of wall colour, and the Angels hang with great jollity against such a vibrant and warm colour. My Dublin Hosts have set out tables and chairs and have provided cake stands full of cakes and cup cakes and provide round the clock pots of tea, glasses of wine and soft drinks. They have made this A Graceful Death exhibition into the A Graceful Death Experience of the Best Kind. Guests have been arriving in huge numbers, and have been welcomed into the house, and guided to the main exhibition where they take their time on their own, to make of the paintings and the exhibition what they will. My Dublin Hosts tell them to make their way round and end in the kitchen where tea and cakes or a glass of wine is waiting for them. And so, in the kitchen, there is a wonderful gathering of all sorts of people, chatting, talking, discussing, some wanting to talk of their experiences, some wanting to talk of ideas for the A Graceful Death to go to its next destination, some just chatting. And alongside the guests in the kitchen drinking their teas and coffees, eating the most amazing cakes, are paintings of Angels Having Tea, Angels Flying Into the Sky and Angels Chatting With Their Friends. The A Graceful Death exhibition works best alongside life, love and kindness.
Yesterday, I was interviewed by a very interesting Alan Stanford on 4fm radio here, about A Graceful Death. It made me think that a whole hour would not begin to cover the subject of this exhibition. It made me think that there is so much to talk of and so much to discuss, and there is such a huge place for Art and Creativity in the experience of Bereavement, Grief, Dying, End of Life. Goodness, there is so much Art can do here. Somehow, words in a conversation, words alone, are not enough to touch the places where we feel so deeply and often so very badly, our pain and loss and madness when we are bereaved. Oh goodness, there is such a place for art to help deal with those times.
I have met representatives from the Irish Cancer Society here at the exhibition, from the Irish Hospice Movement, from the Bethany Group who visit and are there for the bereaved, I have met representatives from the Glasnevin Trust, and a lovely kind and very experienced young director of an Undertaker Business here in Dublin. There have been many visitors who work in hospices as volunteers, there have been neighbours and friends of the Dublin Hosts, there have been nurses, doctors and the clergy. I will mention our first visitor, the local priest, whom I liked very much. He is a busy man, all priests are, and he took the trouble to come and be our first visitor. I didn't know that he had had to deal with his own bereavements until after he left and my Dublin Hosts told me. Not only was I delighted that he came, I was really touched that he should come while things were not so easy for him. And as he left, he gave me a donation to the A Graceful Death exhibition. An amazing start to the Dublin showing of A Graceful Death exhibition.
Today is our last day. The exhibition is scheduled to close at 6pm, but we are keeping it going for one extra day for those who can't make it during the weekend. I pack up and am off home to Bognor Regis on Tuesday.
The exhibition stays here in Dublin, and will go direct from Dublin to Manchester for its next showing in Februrary next year, at the Amazing Rev Rachel Mann's church, St Nicholas in Burnage, Manchester. That will happen because of the kindness of the Dublin Hosts' friend who drove all the way to Bognor from Dublin a few weeks ago to collect the paintings to bring them here, as his contribution to the exhibition. He has offered to take them from Dublin to Rachel's church so that it is easier to set up there. A big and heartfelt thank you to him.
When I get home, I will post pictures of the exhibition. The newest painting is the Self Portrait as a Survivor, and I met yesterday my next Survivor portrait. A lady who has lost a husband of 20 years, months before Steve died, who has carried on their wish to provide a place of rest and peace for those who are termally ill and need spiritual help. This lady is the next Survivor, and I hope to goodness we can put her into the next exhibition. With, too, her husband if she wishes. I would love it.
Emptiness Before The Event, Gathering Of Strength And Resources
The Emptiness is about having mental space before the start of the exhibition. There is Emptiness in my studio too since all the paintings, including the Every Day Angels and the Jesus on the Tubes that accompany A Graceful Death have gone to Dublin with the main exhibition, but there is a necessary Emptiness in my mind before I go over and see what happens for this showing.
This Dublin Exhibition is a private showing and is invitation only. That is because the Dublin Hosts are giving the exhibition in their own home and not a public exhibition space. They have a home that will show the paintings extremely well, and are both extremely creative and very well connected. They have a guest list that would be the envy of any gallery - and they have given up their time and energy to making this A Graceful Death take its first steps in Ireland a good experience.
Before A Graceful Death shows anywhere I need to gather my energies and marshall my thoughts. This is not a static exhibition. It grows and changes with each time it goes public. It has started with my story, but what keeps it going is that my story is the same as everyone else that has been bereaved. The manner of death is Steve's own, but the fact that he died and I was left to live on is the same as everyone else who has lost someone. We are on a journey to then end of our own lives and life is never the same again. I have painted myself for this Dublin exhibition as a survivor. I am interested in painting other survivors, and all of us left to live on are survivors, whether we like it or not. I am interested in painting people at the end of their lives and those of us with lives still left to live. The big self portrait that I have done for this Dublin exhibition - which can be seen on the entry before this one - was my first attempt at this idea. I had envisaged a glorious painting of yellows and oranges, and of me with a calm, peaceful expression and my eyes benign and full of hope. What I got was glorious yellow and orange and a much tighter expression than I had expected. The serenity I hoped to capture is not completely there yet. A lesson to me, what I think and what I feel may be a little different.
So now, I am wondering what will happen next week when we show the paintings and hear what people say. I am looking forward to it, and hoping it will be as fascinating as the times before, when I have shown A Graceful Death. This Emptiness before the event, in that the paintings are all somewhere else out of my studio and house, waiting to be hung and arranged, will become the norm until at least March 2011. They will be taken directly from Dublin to Manchester where they will wait for their next showing. And by then, there should be at least one more painting to be shown. There is at least one more painting at every exhibition. And marshalling my thoughts? That always takes time and is so hard to find time for. A bit of space, silence and thinking time is essential before walking into the A Graceful Death arena. The subject of the exhibition - paintings from the end of life - the passion, the importance of everything that goes with dying, need some time for me to gather strength to do it justice. I do hope you come and see the exhibition when you can. It is so full of love and hope. You would be surprised.
The Paintings Are In Dublin, The Studio Is Strangely Empty
This weekend, the paintings went to Ireland. My Hosts, who are privately showing the A Graceful Death exhibition, have been offered transport from a very longstanding family friend, to collect the paintings from Bognor to Dublin and return them after the exhibition. One of the Host's oldest friends came over in his huge car on the Saturday, packed up all the exhibition and left on the Sunday to drop them off at the Venue. I have known this extremely kind man for many years, but have never really talked to him. It was a good opportunity to speak with him and take time to get to know him a little. My dear Exhibition Host came too, and so my house was filled with jolly Irish men, something I could get used to. The fact that they were here out of the kindness and support of the exhibition was wonderful.
I have a radio interview in Dublin on either this coming Saturday or next Saturday. I will talk about A Graceful Death and what the exhibition is for, about how it came about and where it is going. More on that nearer the time.
The exhibition is growing. This time last year I was gearing up for my first showing of it here in West Sussex, and had no real idea of where it would go or what would happen to it. That first showing did not go as planned, but it still got a huge response. I was very nervous, it was the most important thing I had ever done in paint. Now, I take the exhibition to Ireland. I have no idea how it will be received, but I must be prepared for anything. The good thing is that no one need come to see the paintings unless they want to. One can't stumble on them by accident, they won't suddenly appear before you unless, you make the effort to come. My Hosts are showing the A Graceful Death privately, and want an invitation only exhibition. I am very happy with this, I am lucky to have the opportunity to come over and show the paintings. If I get another venue in Ireland that is not so private, I will be happy to print the address and invite you all. I do want you all to come and see them. It is so important that we talk about dying. I know so little about it, I have never done it, and this is only my first experience of it. But it has been a miracle. I will be shattered by every death I witness, I know there are more to come, and one day, my own will come. But Steve gave me the most extraordinary gift, one that had I been prewarned I would have refused; he gave me the experience of the end of life and the miracle of death. And because I am a painter, I painted my way through it. And I still am.
I will let know how it goes. I will photo it and if I can, take a few video shots of it. I will tape the interview and I hope I can put a link to it here too if I can.
I won't be seeing the paintings in the studio for a good long while now, as the kind fellow who drove them to Dublin is returning them directly to Manchester, where they will be shown in February 2011. They are showing in St Nicholas Church, Burnage, Manchester with the most marvellous Rev Rachel Mann. I hope to take my film making friend to make a film of A Graceful Death, the paintings and the experience. That, I think, would be absolutely wonderful.
Opening night is on Thursday 21 October. Not long now!
So I am very busy packing and sorting and labelling. Over this weekend, the Hosts of the A Graceful Death in Dublin are coming over in a large car to collect the paintings and take them back to Dublin. They do this out of the kindness of their very large hearts, and it is a huge relief and help that they have offered to do this. But I have to have all the paintings ready and wrapped and labelled etc. The exhibition always runs with a small Jesus On The Tube exhibition and an Every Day Angel exhibition. I have found that showing other light hearted works balances the AGD well.
The Self Portrait now has a chair in it for me to sit on. Have a look, there are earrings, my ring and longer hair -
This painting is about being out-the-other-end but still real. I hope to paint others in stages of their journey too. It is a large painting, to compliment the "I'm Not Going Anywhere" portrait of Steve when he had just received his diagnosis of cancer - Steve will be at the beginning of the exhibition and I will be at the end.
This will be a very new experience in Dublin. The exhibition is not open to the general public, it will be invitation only. If however, you are interested in coming, contact me and leave your details and I will get back to you. The exhibition runs from Thursday 21 October till Monday 25 October. It will be the first time I have exhibited this AGD outside the UK.
There are so many different ways this exhibition could develop. It is full of potential, it is about Us, Our story, yours and mine. I am aware of so much unacknowledged need to talk about what happened to us, to our loved ones, to our lives when we lost someone. I want to capture something of that experience in paint and keep it for everyone to see. I want to make it visible, even if all I do is represent with no frills, the reality of the body as it dies. The look in our eyes as we make the journey after the death of someone, into the rest of our lives.
The A Graceful Death will be travelling next year. In February it will go to St Nicholas Church, Burnham, Manchester and in November it goes to St Martin in the Bullring in Birmingham. In between, I want to take it to Edinburgh and there is now an offer to take it to Yorkshire, to a teeny and wonderful stately home there.
If you are interested, leave a message on this blog with your email and I will get back to you. Onwards and Upwards, got to get packing!
I have finished the paintings. Yes, the ones that I needed to do for this Dublin showing are done and drying. I still have some poetry to write up that was sent in by people who visited the exhibition and want to add something of their own. Apart from that, it is all organisation and detail now. The Hosts in Ireland wish to remain anonymous, as this particular show is a Private Showing in a Private House. They are setting up an invitation only exhibition where they have been selecting and asking all those they think will be interested in the paintings. I have an opening night on the Thursday 21 October, and over the next few days, the exhibition is aiming to attract at least 200 people. The Dublin Hosts know and are connected to a lot of people.
I am very impressed with the way the A Graceful Death is being organised in Dublin. I think it will be a very targeted group of people and organisations that come, and I will need my wits about me, because as with all the AGD exhibitions, questions will be asked as to what exactly I am doing, and why. Well, gosh, I have answered that so often and because I feel the exhibition is such a fluid and organic enterprise, the answers can get bigger and bigger. I am doing this show because I can. It is the only way I can share the depth of the experience of loss and of love. I am not alone, all of you have a story to tell of love and loss, but for a while I thought I was the only one to suffer in the way I was suffering. I tried to paint it to make sense of it. And once I had done that, I found that I was just one of many to have had a bereavement. I was just one of millions of ongoing bereavements, and all of us felt this bad.
I will keep you all informed of the A Graceful Death in Dublin. I will honour my Hosts wishes to remain anonymous, and I will tell you all how it went. I will photo it and tell you how it was received, which I cannot for the life of me, predict.
There are two more firm dates that you can come and visit, which are in February 2011 at the Rev Rachel Mann's church, St Nicholas in Burnage in Manchester. More details and publicity on that when nearer the time. And in November 2011, AGD is going to St Martins in the Bullring in Birmingham. That will be for about 3weeks, and will include workshops that I will be taking on bereavement and related feelings, with the very talented poet Penny Hewlet. I have ideas for other workshops, some very unusual, but all very significant. More too, on that, nearer the time.
Now I must go and Laminate. All the painting descriptions and the write ups need to be prepared and make indestructable. Laminate them, I thought, and so now I shall. I must also send out all the invitations, the related publicity to the selected invitees, and the information that needs to accompany each invite. The paintings are being collected by two wonderful and dedicated Irish Men In A Large Vehicle next weekend, out of the goodness of their hearts. All they ask is a bed for the night. They will get that and a large meal on the hour every hour and many many grateful thanks. So now I must go and Pepare. More later.
At the end of October, I am taking the paintings to be exhibited at a Private Venue in Dublin. This exhibition is not open to the general public, and will available as an Invite Only showing. This is the first time I have exhibited this way, and it is a very good way of asking those who would be interested in the exhibition on a number of fronts. There will be those who have a professional interest in the subject of End of Life and Bereavement and Palliative Care, there will be members of the medical profession, there will be those representing Religion and others who may be interested in the paintings as works of art. The organisers of this Private View will also ask friends and family, as this subject is a huge part of every person's life.
I am very happy about this Dublin Adventure. It will make me aware of a new audience. I wonder how it will go, and what the Irish and I will make of each other. I don't know how Irish people view death and dying, I have never asked them. Maybe they are open to the subject and talk about it more, maybe they are able to cope with it through religion. Maybe they aren't. I am intrigued, and realise I will only meet a microscopically small selection of the population, so I won't have all the answers at the end of this showing of A Graceful Death. I won't ever have all the answers to anything, though. Much though I would like them.
Here, then, is a new and not yet finished painting for the exhibition.
It shows me sitting as a Survivor. It shows me as someone who has come through the darkest of times into a happier phase of my life. Here, I am Transcendent. Losing Steve has not disappeared, I am not as if it didn't happen, but I am living a life Beyond. The yellow around me is about sheer life, love, hope, light. It is Newness, Joy, Heat. I sit without smiling, I am calm and I am without any props, and I don't need to have any expression, I just Am. And I Am Better. Steve lives with me alongside my life as it is now, and my life has moved on to include happiness, peace, laughter and love. I am a Survivor.
The painting is not yet finished. I want to add the chair I am sitting on, and some other little details like my earrings, and touching up my hair a bit. And the hands need some work and my ring needs to be added. But I love love love this yellow colour. It is absolutely the Right Thing to me today.
More on the Private Dublin showing of A Graceful Death as it unfolds. It will be showing from Thursday 21 October to Monday 25 October.
John Horne (29th November 1911- 5th September 1999)
My Papa was born in Grangemouth, Scotland, just before the first World War. His childhood was poor but very happy. Growing up during the depression, there was no money for extended education, so he left school at fourteen and became an apprentice painter and decorator. This suited his naturally artistic temperament and he enjoyed his work.
He married my Grandma, Isa, just four days his junior when they were both 25, and she was the love of his life. Shortly after their marriage, they were separated for over five years during WWII as Papa served in the army as a driver. His tales of war-time were never of conflict or hardship, but of how his painting skills were used to make scenery for their amateur dramatic shows, or of how he once drove from Italy to Belgium without stopping, constantly eating dry biscuits in an attempt to stay awake! At one stage in his service, he was involved in looking after POWs and befriended a German painter from the Black Forest. Papa got some oils so the POW could paint, and in return the POW painted a scene from his homeland for my Papa. It was one of his most treasured possessions and was displayed above his fireplace for decades after.
After the war, he resumed his quiet and unassuming life, working, looking after his family including his two beloved children - my uncle, Jim, and my mum, Isobel - and serving as an Elder in his parish church.
I didn’t meet my Papa until 1977. He’d just retired, and a demanding little granddaughter was just what he needed to fill his time. My little sister, who arrived two years later helped too. Papa and I were very close. I have so many memories of him teaching me to play cards and dominoes, taking me to the park, watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies with me, drinking endless pretend cups of tea when I was playing with my plastic toy teaset, drawing pictures for me, covering the formica coffee table with pencil lines so we could play shove ha’penny. He never got bored of playing.
Papa had the worst sense of humour in the world – he was the only person I knew who found the jokes inside crackers genuinely funny – and every visit brought another quip he had collected from the radio. We were always laughing about something. Grandma would just tut at his nonsense, then go and make him another cup of tea, with lots of milk and practically a ladle-full of sugar, before finding some lemonade and biscuits for me.
Dementia and then cancer slowly stole my grandparents away. Soon, they were in a residential home together, most often found sitting on a little double sofa by the front door, greeting any visitors. My Grandma’s memory loss made her increasingly difficult, yet my Papa loved her to the end, and was practically bursting with pride the day they celebrated their Diamond wedding in 1997. My Mum maintains that when Grandma died in early 1999, it was only because my Papa’s own memory loss gave him some respite from his grief that he survived her by as much as seven months.
We were lucky. As Papa’s mental and physical health deteriorated, he became almost more himself than ever. He covered his memory lapses with jokes, funny sayings and songs. He couldn’t play cards and shove ha’penny anymore, but his love for us still shone out of him. He may have taught me much through his life, but it was in his death he taught me the most profound lesson. A human’s dignity is not based on what they can do, but on who they are. My Papa was a good, gentle and loving man.
This portrait is based on a photo taken of my Papa weeks before he died. He was so tired. I knew we didn’t have long, and I took the camera with me that day because I wanted a few last pictures. His leaving us was such a painful yet precious experience, and I wanted to hold a little of that forever. Now, through Antonia’s work, I can hold it with the full beauty it deserves. He died his own Graceful Death. The day he died, I visited him. He was asleep and looking so peaceful I couldn’t bear to wake him so I simply kissed him and left. Later that night, the carers walked him to his room, and he was singing to them. Once in his room, as they prepared him for bed, he slipped away.
Papa’s was a fairly ordinary life, lived quietly and without show. Yet it was transfigured by his love. At his funeral we chose for the reading the famous biblical treatise on love, and so I quote from it here:
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a,13 (NIV)
Kate's Grandfather Papa will be joining the A Graceful Death exhibition in Dublin in October.
What Is It All About? What Is A Graceful Death For?
A Graceful Death is an exhibition of paintings from the End of Life. The story begins with the death of my partner from cancer in November 2007. I painted him in his last few weeks, days, and the day of his death, and have produced some very raw, powerfully real and beautiful paintings of the human body as it folds away into death.
The exhibition has grown over the last year to include other stories, images and experiences from those who are moved by the paintings to want to include thier own loved ones to be remembered. I have been working on portraits of people no longer with us, painted from images loaned to me by relatives of the person concerned, for inclusion in the A Graceful Detah exhibition. I have poetry sent in to me and I have now, at every exhibition, a small pot of flower for a young man called David, from his brother, who misses him and didn't want a painting or poetry to represent David.
Wy am I doing it?
I am doing it because I feel so passionately that dying is the most important part of our lives. I am doing this because I can communicate and reach out through paintings. I lost the man I loved, but, I am not the only one to have suffered bereavement. I know how it feels and I know how surviving it feels, and I can use these paintings to go far beyond that which words can say.
It is not a comercial venture. It makes me no money and the paintings cannot be sold. Somehow, the exhibition is growing and is travelling from place to place, and somehow it is being supported. The only way this exhibitioncan and does surbibe, is through donations and funding from indiiduals who have bisited the exhibition and have understood the importance of enableing this conversation on Life and Death.
The paintings are about Love and Loss and about How We Die. I will carry with me forever my loss of Steve. I will never forget how it feels to watch him die; there will always be a Before Steve and an After Steve. The paintings are meant to hold you. They are to strike that buried chord in your stomach, of recognition and understanding. I am doing this so that your experience is givern a small shock of empathy, and to ask you to Remember. The love is present in the care, the compassion and the detail that I paint into each picture. The love is in the fact that I want to honour those at the end of their journey, and that I am not afraid to do it.
And there is always the survival of those of us that are left behind. I have one painting which is dedicated to the fact that we do carry on, and life becomes good again, and happiness is not only possible, but right.
Our lives will end. We will die. After someone we love dies, the pain we feel, and the difference in our perception of life and death, is horribly real. These paintings are abut that pain and that difference. They are also about the Power of Life that continues regardless, whether we wish it to or not. I am painting dying, death, loss, illness, hope, love and redemption.
Sometimes I lie in my bed, tired and a little fractious, and think that if I was fighting an illness, how would that be for me? I imagine Steve feeling so exhausted during the day that he needed to lie down and sleep. He was full of energy and liked to go fishing in his beloved boat Illusion, to get things done, to be active and to participate in the day. For him to be tired enough to have to go to bed in the day was very unusual. So did he feel like I do sometimes; uncomfortable, dissatisfied, unrelieved? I can feel the lack of peace when I lie down in my bed. I can feel that my limbs are too weary to relax and I can feel that I am not benefiting from my rest. But I can get up later and move around without questioning how my energy levels will cope. There is always a point at which I can gear myself into action and get back into the swing of things as if I had never had to pause and rest. But for Steve, and others who are ill, there is no change. There was no moment that Steve felt that he was rested enough, and that it was time to get up and join in the day to day routines around him. the exhaustion in his body kept him lying down, and when he decided to get up and join us, it made him move slowly and pause for breath, and to decide to do as little as possible in order to stay in the loop with us.
But sometimes, as I lie in my lovely bed, anxious and unrestful, I think What if this was the best I could feel? What if this is where I would stay and the world out of my window was gone for me for ever? How would I feel if I could no longer get up, dust myself down and drive off in my car to meet someone, do the shopping, get something done? I find it very scarey. I think that if I had to stay here, no matter how red my sheets are and how many wonderful pictures I have on my walls, I would feel frightened and trapped and terrified that this was as good as it could be. I would remember with longing how I took for granted the moving around the house, the choosing of clothes, the way I could just Do things. I don't think I would be comforted by the lovely things that surround me in my room.
What is it like to be ill in bed? If you are terminally ill, how do you think? What do you think? What are the silences like when no one is coming to visit you and you have to endure yourself inbetween distractions? I imagine myself into a state of mind that is as near to this as is possible in a healthy inexperienced person. I find my focus changing utterly. I feel my body much more profoundly, and feel it as if it is not a part of me. When I am dispirited and lie down at night to sleep, and don't feel any benefits, I think Ah. So this is a fraction of what it must be like to have your body slowly succumb to an illness that will eventually kill you. If I were in that position, I may find the memory of how I took for granted my health and life before it began to fade, almost unbearable. Or would I feel so physically weak, ill, unwell, that I would find the lying down in peace in my bed a relief? Would I concentrate on how I felt now, and not find time to remember how it was to do as I pleased during the day? I know that when I try to imagine how Steve must have felt as his symptoms became more and more obvious, that I was not as understanding as I could have been. I was simply ignorant. I had had no experience at all of such a thing as cancer and the inevitable decline and eventual death it brings in the sufferer. Nor, I have to say, had Steve. Between us we had no real idea of what to expect. We feared that he would die, but until the disease had rendered him visibly and mentally incapable, we hoped he wouldn't have to. I knew he would die before he did. I think. But as I sometimes try and imagine how I would feel if I had a terminal illness, I think that perhaps Steve always knew it was the end and that he would die. He just would not admit it. I wonder if I would? If I were in his position?
Lying restless in my bed sometimes, in the night, with my limbs finding little relief from exhaustion from lying down, and worrying about it, I think This is how Steve felt. All the time. And for him there was no getting better. It wasn't just a temporary discomfort, it was total, and constant and forever getting worse. This, for him, was never going to improve.
And how is it for anyone who is bed bound? Anyone who contemplates their own death? I may be in that situation one day. I hope I don't drop dead or die in my sleep. I think I would like to prepare myself to die. I think I would like to know it is coming and get ready for it. That is what I think now. Not having ever had to deal with my own mortality, everything I write is just theory. And this is why I am writing this - what is it like to lie in bed and consider your own end? I just do not know.
The paintings will all be going to stay in Dublin for the next showing of A Graceful Death. I am interested to see how the Irish will react to the exhibition. The paintings will be shown over the half term week and I will post the reactions and comments I get then. There is a chance that the paintings will then go on to another Irish destination, for a Festival. But as that is not finalised I will say no more just yet.
What is happening in A Graceful Death at the moment? It is a time of organising, of painting and of expanding. I have two more paintings to complete, and some more poetry to write up from people who have come to the exhibition and want to participate. I am looking to find ways of making the paintings reach more people, and am researching new and interesting venues. Along with this, I am finding much new support and help in the finding of new material and assistance in the whole organising of the work. I still make no money from it, so funding has been important. Donations to the A Graceful Death fund have made a huge difference - even the travel costs to the places in which we exhibit is huge. There is enough now to take the paintings to Dublin, and to Manchester in February and to Birmingham again in November of next year. This is excellent.
The exhibition is no longer just about me. It started with my story, of the death and the loss of my partner Steve, who died so gracefully in November 2007. All the paintings I needed to do to help myself in my grief are done - except for one more. I want to paint a large self portrait of the Survivor. The pain of loss is devastating but it does not always remain as bad. You can and often do, move on and surprise yourself with how normal and happy your life can be. I want to paint myself at the other end of this experience. I want to paint the next stage in the life of a Person Left Behind By The Death Of A Loved One, and I look forward to seeing how that will turn out.
After this final Steve painting, I will be concentrating solely on those who want to be included. I am open to suggestions. I would love to paint those at the very end of life, but they would have to know about this exhibition and agree to it. It has happened, with Anne and Peter Snell. That painting features in a previous post; Peter wanted to be included in A Graceful Death before he died, so that his death could help others. He did not live to see the painting finished. His widow, Anne Snell, is now an ardent supporter of this exhibition. I would like to paint those who have just died if the relatives wish it and give permission. Each person in the exhibition will be given a write up, to explain their story and their involvement in the A Graceful Death. Every image will be true entirely to the person involved, their story will be very specially documented to be shown with their painting, which of course, I will do.
I am also helping with a project on Angels at a hospice near here, in September. That I very much look forward to, and will find myself learning more and more, from the people who are taking this journey into the end of life.
A Very Loving Exhibition At A Very Eccentric Festival
The Festival of the Nine Muses at Milton, near Oxford, was a wonderful experience. It was slightly batty, slightly shambolic, but they pulled it off and gave A Graceful Death a huge central space in which to do its magic.
I sat on the sofa here and was joined by various lovely people who wanted to talk, or sit, or discuss life and death, or just remember someone.
There is a more lighthearted account of the Exhibition and the Festival on my other blog, http://www.antoniarolls.blogspot.com/ . In this account, I want to tell you about some of the experiences the Exhibition gave me and others during the weekend.
More of the paintings, on show in this huge old tea rooms, once a kitchen or a brewery, depending on who was telling me about it.
I set up the exhibition on the Friday, late. I wanted to get it all ready so that on the Saturday I could concentrate on the visitors that were due from 10am onwards. We moved all the clutter that we could, all the tables and chairs, all the urns and bowls, the stuffed animals, the papier mache dragons heads. All the old rocking horses and table legs, the copper suacepans and the piles of handy cleaning rags. When the room was as clear as possible I began to set up the piantings. The room is full of history. It is full of the smell of centuries, and the slightly musty smell of old wood and plaster. There were cobwebs and old books and old disintegrating prints everywhere. And, beautifully, little pots of fresh wild flowers in hidden spots, like on the hearth and behind old bits of wood.
The first surprise came as I was setting up on Friday. A young man, a healthy tanned hansdome young man came and stood in the room and looked around him. People often come in and look and then turn and leave, and have no reason to stay. This young man seemed to be having a very slight reaction to the paintings, so I asked if he was OK. After a little while, after some talking, he said he had lost his brother a few years ago. This brother had died suddenly and utterly needlessly at the hands of some unscrupulous people in dreadful circumstances. My young man was remembering him and feeling his loss. He didn't like to talk of him, he said, it isn't something anyone can undersand. But he misses him, regrets his death, and keeps a picture of him so that he can at least see his image daily. I asked if he would like to add something to the exhibition? No, he said. It wasn't his thing. He didn't want to write and he was very private. But he did want his brother remembered. So I asked him to choose a teapot from the millions on display, and I would fill it with flowers, and put a little sign saying "David. With us today with love" and leave it at that. My young man knew exactly which teapot to chose, an elephant one because David had loved animals. (This young man rented a flat at the Manor, so knew the tearooms and the teapots very well.) So that is what we did. David will come with us for every exhibition now, and I will make a little memorial using anything animal related and flowers and add the little sign, "David. With us today with love" and explain nothing. David's brother's face lit up when he saw the display the next day, and I feel that the strength and love that David inspired in his brother is not only a testimony to David's importance while alive, but a real testiment to the gentle, quiet, strong and wonderful young man that is David's brother. Incidentally, another connection here - I wrote up the essay that I was sent by Liam Tullet, on Change, Emotion and Life, and made it into a booklet. Liam is a plumber in his very early 20s, as was David's brother. David's brother found Liam's little booklet and took it away with him with interest. Liam Tullet connected with another young man through similar experiences and profession, through a piece of writing he was brave enough to send me. A very very good piece of writing, I may add.
Most people wandered in and out of the tea rooms and some looked at the paintings, some did not want to see them. Those that stood still and looked and read were the ones that needed either to talk or to come and sit for a while. I was invited to the Festival through a very passionate and loving young girl called Jessica. Jessica is in her twenties, and is a powerful personality, and was deeply moved by the exhibition when it was on in Wimbledon. Jessica arranged for me come to the Festival of the Nine Muses, and had faith that the A Graceful Death would balance well with the theme of Love that was behind the Festival. Jessica came and bought two of her sisters and bought her mother. Jessica's mother, Mary, is someone I loved on first sight. She understood everything, she looked at and read everything, and came and sat in tears on the sofa. Her tears were of understanding, not grief. She is an artist too, a writer and director having been trained first as an actress. She, like Jessica, just Got It. We talked and she was very interesting indeed. She has asked me to join her Theatre Company at the Edinburgh Festival next month, and I said, of course, Yes. Of course! But whether or not it happens at such short notice, is another matter. If it does, then wonderful. If it doesn't, then Next Time. Whatever happens, I look forward to meeting both Jessica, her mother Mary again.
David's brother chose the elephant teapot from this selection.
Then there was the Musician and his Girlfriend, who sat and talked for a long time. He was a fascinating character, and spoke of his own artistic journey. He was moved by one painting in particular - this one of
Steve sitting and waiting in the Hospice chair to die. Holding on minute by minute. The Musician wanted to create in his lifetime a moment of real impact through his music. I expect he will do it, but he is very self critical, I wonder if he will know he has done it.
Finally, a lady I met and liked so much, I hope to goodness she contacts me again. She is a very tall Ethiopian lady, wearing a brilliant turquoise kaftan and gold jewellery. When I first met her she had just lain down on the sofa, looking so very regal, but when I said I needed to sit there she leapt to her feet apologetically, looking deeply embarrased. I thought I had mortally offended her. I was making tea so I made her a cup, and she tried to pay for it, but I did not want payment so there was another interesting moment. I told her she was very welcome to sit, and I sat next to her. I talked to some other people, and she sat quietly and texted and looked around her and said nothing. Then, she started to join in. She was so interesting and so clever and so insightful. I looked at her with amazement, aware that I thought she thought I was mad and that I thought she was offended - not a bit of it. We talked for ages and I found her the most uplifting and encouraging lady, so very very nice. She is related, she said, to the Emperor Haile Selassi and sure enough, that is her name. She had to leave after a while, but came back later to talk some more, and we agreed to keep in touch. She wants to help A Graceful Death and had some excellent ideas and suggestions. There is just a Feeling about her. She is very switched on indeed.
There were many other interesting people, and many other interesting converstations. A man called Paul dropped by and spent some time with me, and he was very profoundly moved with his own tale to tell. I was very glad to meet him. My cousin and her little girl came and was so supportive.
The final view of the A Graceful Death in the wonderful old Tearooms of Milton Manor.
To leave you on a bright note, I packed one of my many spotty teapots and six spotty mugs for the weekend. No matter where I am, the Tea Standards must be Maintained. So here is my bag dedicated to Tea Standards.
The Festival of the Nine Muses was a truly unique experience. It was a wonderful weekend, and I am deeply grateful to have been included. The A Graceful Death is a powerful, deep, raw, loving and passionate exhibition. Once again, its impact was profound and the lessons I come away with, the people I meet, make me think that Death is a very unifying experience.
Milton Manor Today and A Graceful Death in a Greenhouse with No Glass
I believe! I am told this is where I will set up, or it could be in the Tack Room with Lots of Straw or the Tea Room. It doesn't matter, the exhibition will be set up wherever it is given space, and will be just as powerful. The paintings will reach a different public today and tomorrow, in a kind of chaotic festival set up around the theme of Love, and we will see what happens. I am camping with other Fesival Goers in the grounds of Milton Manor, and will have friends and family with me. We will be there till Sunday morning.
I hope you will be able to come, and come and find me and talk to me.
A Graceful Death will be showing for one day only at a rather fascinating and chaotic festival of Love Poetry in Oxford this Saturday. The Festival of the Nine Muses takes place at
Milton Manor, near Oxford.
The Festival of the Nine Muses
Hosted by Anthony Mockler, the Nine Muses, and members of the Chelsea Arts Club
From 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday 10th July 2010, at Milton Manor, Milton, Oxfordshire 0X14 4EN
A Graceful Death will be showing there, with the unifying theme of both the exhibition and the festival being Love. The Festival charges for entry, so be prepared for that. Have a look at the website on the following link - http://www.miltonmanorhouse.com/
It will be interesting and fun, and I would love to see you there.
The next firm booking I have is with the wonderful Rev Rachel Mann in Manchester. She will host the A Graceful Death in her church, St Nicholas Church, Burnage. The date so far will be around February 2011. We are hoping for a two week exhibition in the church itself. I will, of course, fill you all in on that when I know more.
The next big question is How To Pay For The Exhibition To Travel. I am beginning to be sent donations to A Graceful Death, which is absolutely wonderful and vital. It costs me a lot to take it around and show it, not least to paint it all and provide all the images for the exhibition. This is my passion, that is understood. A Graceful Death means everything to me, and it touches so many lives as it tours. So many people that have seen it have so much to offer too, and I have poetry, images that I will paint, and prose to add to each time the exhibition is mounted.
If you can donate to the A Graceful Death fund for its production costs, please do so. If you wish to sponsor it then I will add your name to the list of sponsors. If you wish to make a donation without sponsorship, then please do. Contact me on email@example.com to arrange any donations or offerings that you wish to offer. I am grateful for all help. The exhibition is beautiful, it is profound and it is full of love and life and hope and the miracle of death and dying, and the pain of our loss. And our life still going on whatever we may feel. Hope.
Come to Oxford if you can, and come and find me and talk to me. Bring me your stories, tell me about yourself, come and see the paintings, come and take part.
Finally, the Festival may well be the only time I get the exhibit in an old Greenhouse With No Glass. I believe I am going to be in there and I can't wait. Hope to see you on Saturday.
I showed the painting of Anne and Peter Snell to Anne, as it was Peter's wish (supported by Anne) that it be done and included in the A Graceful Death exhibition. Anne is a graceful and deeply experienced lady, with a gift for doing good to people. She liked the painting - actually, she and her wonderful children found the painting extremely difficult to look at and were very upset by it, but not because they did not want the painting to be done. They were knocked sideways by the sight of Peter and Anne as they were for his last weeks, by the memories of that time spent loving him and allowing him to die in dignity and peace. After many tears and conversations amongst themselves and me, they have given me more than the go ahead. I have found Champions. Fearless, intelligent, experienced and brave champions. Anne Snell, with the support of her children, especially two of her daughters Maddy Pook and Jemima Lipari, have enabled A Graceful Death to find its first sponsorship money. Peter Snell has provided funds for good works and his wife and step children have given A Graceful Death enough money to put on two whole exhibitions, with all expenses paid. I cannot thank them enough.
I am looking for sponsorship. I am looking for donations. I am looking for funds to enable this amazing exhibition to tour the country. Many places have asked for it to be shown - I have so far, firm commitments from Birmingham, Manchester, Dublin and York. The exhibition goes to where it is needed and asked for, and needs funds to help it travel, advertise, for me to paint the new paintings, for me to print out all the wonderful new poetry and writings I am sent to include in the exhibition, for all the helpers who help me keep it going. Please think hard. Can you help? Can you donate anything to this A Graceful Death exhibition? I have been shown so far that it is possible to reach out to people and say that the memories of the passing of someone never goes away. It is a terrible and awesome gift to know, really know, that death will happen and it will happen to all of us. And we can grieve, and we can talk about it, and all our stories are important. What we have to say on this personal and sometimes terrible, sometimes miraculous subject, is necessary. Often, in the A Graceful Death exhibition, someone will come in and relive the loss of someone special. You may think this is unwelcome, and to be avoided. But it is not. It happens all the time to those who grieve. It is what happens, and for it to happen with those around who say, "Yes, it happened to us too, and look, it is fine to cry. And look at us now, we are never over it but our lives go on and we are so much better for this experience", for it to happen amongst those people, is a gift.
To come to the exhibition is a brave choice. You have to choose to come, you will never stumble upon it. You know you will be vulnerable to sorrow and you know you will see your own experience there amongst the paintings and writings. But - you will be affirmed. You will see it is more than fine to grieve, it is part of your life. I don't intend for the exhibition to weigh you down or to burden you. I aim for a connection with the End Of Life issues that you have experienced, and to affirm that you still live, and love, and that this real real thing that happened to you is Fine. It is OK. It happened and you are not alone. And now you are here, days, months, years after someone you loved or even someone you just knew, died. We can't chose who we grieve for, we just do it.
A Graceful Death Exhibition is Growing and Going Places.
This is Anne and Peter Snell. Peter asked to be included in the A Graceful Death exhibition before he died, and Anne asked for me to come and see them. Anne was telling Peter how much she loves him here, and Peter was loved out of this life a few days later.
The A Graceful Death exhibition is becoming more inclusive. Anne and Peter Snell are featured above, and will be the central piece for the Oxford Exhibition which is coming up next month. I have found this painting so good to paint, it has taken me some time because Peter's head seemed so vulnerable and precious, as he lay on his pillows. I wanted to capture his dignity and strength. Anne has always been very beautiful, and is shown here concentrating on Peter and talking to him.
A Graceful Death will include one more image next month too. I have been allowed to paint the image of Kate Massey's Grandfather before he died, and when I have finished it you will see what a lovely face and smile this Grandfather had. I am hoping to have it finished within the next two weeks. Kate Massey is a student at Queen's Theological College in Birmingham, and was moved to include her much loved Grandfather in the next exhibition. I am grateful to Kate.
Included too will be some very profound poetry by Penny Hewlett. Penny is a modest but highly accomplished poet. The first poem I put up of Penny's is entered for a poetry competition so I am using another of Penny's wonderful poems -
10 Years On
extract from the first verses
I thought I was done with this task,
knifing through each circle of the onion
to get at the grief inside,
chopping the flesh of my loss
slice by slice, always another layer,
yet not stopping, not, because I knew
that somewhere the taste of memories
would be sweeter for the tears that I let fall,
that you would return without the bitterness
without the sting of it.
extract from the second verses
I thought I was done with this task
till in a new home the walls looked bare
because you had not seen them, the kitchen table
had just a four legged function where the world was
not vividly explored, the door less welcoming
because your hand had never pushed it wide,
this house did not know you,
and I misses you at its kernel and its core.
(2 extracts from her longer poem "10 Years On")
There is a wonderful piece of writing by a young man who has suffered the loss of two of his friends by the time he was 24. I am very moved by what Liam has written and will be including it as a booklet for people to take away. It is called "Change, Emotion and Life".
A Graceful Death has started with my story. I painted my way through the first two years of my loss of my darling Steve from liver cancer in November 2007. From the resulting pictures has come the most wonderful response by those who have created something of their own to include in the next showing of the exhibition. There are more and more people involved in its progress around the country, and this is what I had wanted. It is very good that A Graceful Death is speaking to those that want to hear, and we are all having this very important but deeply avoided conversation about How Do We Die? How Do We Survive The Loss Of Someone We Love?
The planned venues for the exhibition are, without finalising the order,
Oxford, Dublin, Westport Ireland, Manchester, a new venue in Birmingham and Yorkshire.
As soon as they are finalised I will publicise them. And, I will be creating a new website for easy access to the gallery of paintings and poetry and prose. More soon.
Snowy the Cat RIP, another very important member of the A Graceful Death paintings