This is the story of my piece Countdown to Goodbye for The Art of Loss which I had the honour to curate for the Sunshine Coast Hospice Society and Gibsons Public Art Gallery, an opportunity which arose shortly after the passing of my wonderful husband Dennis in early 2017 when the Hospice Society brought the idea for an exhibition dealing with loss to GPAG who had an unexpected exhibition calendar cancellation slot to fill for 2018.
It was my great joy and privilege to have the most wonderful partner and husband for 39 years. It was my duty and pleasure to have been able to offer him the smoothest possible final year of life after his diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis. Organizing and managing this show with 30 artists (sometimes like herding cats) was a great place to put my energy and focus in the period of my transition from long and happily married to suddenly single.
The installation piece depicts parts of his final journey. Here, the portable oxygen tanks to enable him to get around as comfortably as possible, started only in the last 4 months of bis life. He was fortunate to be able to spend his time completely at home with no falls or other reasons to become hospitalized. We were very fortunate to have great home care palliative team members come to the house regularly, even through BC winter snows which needed to be cleared by 9 am each morning.
He told me he’d never had a teddy bear or doll as a child in Liverpool, just after the war! We made up for that with lots of hugs from these small pals as his world became smaller and confined to the house, then the living room then the bedroom.
The main center image captures all the friends and family who stopped by in his very final days. Many will recognize themselves. Jan P shows us her latest plein air paintings at the foot of the bed, Tati thanks him for helping her get her first credit card as a brand new Canadian in 2000, Doug and Mary who introduced us way back in 1978, steadfast friends Bruce and Sandy, young Sophie and Maddie who bravely held it together, chins quivering. And of course Jake and Ben and Mark and Rowan and even Luna the dog. What a treat it was to be able to spend this valuable, grateful and peaceful time together. What a wealth of friendship and love…
The Canadian Legion women Wilma and Valdene came to his bedside to induct him as a member to the Legion and they had the most wonderful chatty time as the rest of us cheered him on as a very proud new member, even though he had an appointment for his own exit from this world 4 days later. It was meaningful to Dennis.
The final images reveals his hand in mine after the gift of Medical Assistance in Dying MAiD was granted to him to pass peacefully and lovingly at home. It is overlaid over Dennis’s application form for MAiD.
He had requested a simple cedar coffin and we delivered him lovingly back to the Earth in that dressed in simple hemp shirt and trousers. Cedar boughs tumble down…
Above the piece are images from his long, adventurous and very full life from his humble early days in Liverpool onwards.
Below on a bed of cedar boughs is the Little Suitcase of Happiness, bursting with memories and love that we were so fortunate to have built up in our life together. What a gift we shared to have found each other and built our exciting and loving life together.
The oxygen tubing drips with bejeweled drops… of tears or life-giving water….
And now, I am walking forward, dancing forward in my life, a life rich with health, friendship, passions and even passionate new arms around, holding me close.
I am truly blessed and grateful.
See The Art of Loss in this video or in this post.