My Favorite Oil Painting
Is there an item in your home that seems ordinary to others but holds deep significance for you? Sometimes, it is hard to explain to others what meaning that item holds. You probably have a few of them. So do I.
There are a few special items in our home that will remain my treasures for years to come. Some items are very small like the locks of baby hair that I kept from our oldest son, James. Because he survived the serious meningitis infection I contracted while expecting him, I counted the hairs on his head as precious. I wanted to remember that, even though he is now a grown man, there were days at Mayo Clinic when I didn’t know if I would get to see that beautiful head of hair.
I kept the soft blue velvet music box that Chris gave me when we started dating in 1979. It is edged in a beautiful lace that has held up since the first day he gave it to me. He knew I loved music and lace, and so he showed care in what he gave me as a first gift. (Or perhaps it was the only one in the store, but I like my fairy tale way of thinking!) Anyway…I still have it. It plays the song, “The Impossible Dream.”
Many years ago, my parents took me to an art exhibit featuring major American artist Martin Johnson Heade at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, because they knew his orchid and bird paintings were my absolute favorites. I had no idea that seeing his paintings in person would leave such a deep feeling of gratitude in my heart. When I was a teenager and even as a young mother with several children, my parents often took me to special places such as mineral and gem exhibits, orchid shows, or celebrated concerts. They nurtured a love of all things exceptionally lovely in my life. One of the treasured prints I had framed after one of these adventures is an orchid print by Mr. Heade. It marks a memory of the times they sacrificed their time to make me feel special and seen. The gift of time from my parents is still tangible.
And then there is my beloved oil painting. If you ask any of my family members what my favorite wall item is in our home, they would all say emphatically, “the bird painting.” For more than 20 years, it has captured my heart with its artistic display of seven fantastic birds. It has moved with us from house to house, from the largest wall to the next largest wall, outshining every other wall item that would dare to compete with its presence.
This painting has taken on the imaginary characters of each of our seven family members—from the largest daddy bird to the sweetest baby bird. I could give you the characteristics of each feathered friend and why I have named them after a certain family member. You don’t really need to know all of that. You just need to know that those five birds named after each of our children have an almost palpable place in my nest. The birds in my painting have come to life for me, over the years, as we have raised them to fly.
What I didn’t know about this painting was that, after Robert passed, it would be a constant reminder that one of my baby birds had not just left my feathered nest; he had (been) flown to a new nest. A heavenly nest. A better nest. A pain-free nest. A nest so far from me…and a nest from which a bird does not return.
My favorite oil painting is still my favorite oil painting.
This painting was recently moved after a family decision to enjoy a larger television screen in our family room. The decision was unanimous that we would carefully move the painting upstairs to another large and clearly visible wall. I couldn’t figure out why I was so resistant to this change, at first. Why would I object to a different location when relocating it would enable our family together time to be more enjoyable? Why? Because the imaginary portrait exemplified the nest that we had built over 41 years of marriage!
Moving it out of prominent view for me each day somehow diminished my feeling of stability. In a very weird way, it felt like I was removing the sacred memory of my precious “Robert bird” from my view…from my consciousness. Not a realistic thought, I know but, oddly, it floated around in my mind. (I have a very active imagination!)
Now, I can still see my painting immediately when I look upstairs, over the iron railing. I can still see our seven feathered family members just as beautifully as ever. Moving my favorite oil painting from a room where I spend so much time didn’t lessen its artistic value or my enjoyment of it, but it did release me from the constant reminder of my youngest baby bird’s fate. And it did allow me to move on somewhat to face this new chapter of healing and acceptance I believe is very healthy.
I didn’t recognize that viewing that painting, in some way, was keeping me trapped in a perpetual place of sadness after Robert passed. It wasn’t a joyful view for me most of the time anymore. I didn’t realize that until we moved it. Now, I can look at it upstairs and smile at the beauty it portrays. I can testify to the goodness of God in all of it and not live with anxiety, fearing that a baby bird might fall unaware from my nest.
I have that “His eye is on the sparrow…” kind of peace.
I can now appreciate each one of those birds in my favorite oil painting as gifts in my nest, from the daddy bird to the little baby bird. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss that one bird daily, but I know that they are all right where they are supposed to be. My painting’s new home upstairs is right where it’s supposed to be for this time in my life.
You may have special, even sacred items in your home that you hold on to for a while. It may not be time for you to move them to a different location. I understand. But when you are ready, please know that I have walked where you may need to walk. I have allowed myself to “feel all the feels” openly and, even now, right smack dab in front of you!
Hold on to those sacred memories even if the tangible items need to be firmly placed in a different nest. You may worry, as I did. You may be anxious, as I was. But feel all the feels as you celebrate the memories.
Listening Library: Birds (Anna Golden)
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26 NIV)
Birds in the air, they don't worry The sun's never scared that it won't rise If all of creation depends on your goodness Why oh why can't I?
Anxiety is such a human thing But what do the creatures know about you?
They all know you're faithful and you're true You'll do everything you said you would do They all know you're lovely and you're just I know these things but I must Admit that I'm so human sometimes Everything you've done for all of creation You've done it in my life
Anxiety is such a human thing What do the creatures know about you?
They all know you're faithful and you're true You'll do everything you said you would do They all know you're lovely and you're just I know these things but I must Admit that I'm so human sometimes
I know I'm so human sometimes God, I'm just so human sometimes Everything you've done for all of creation You've done it in my life
Over and over Again and again Oh, you'll do it for me Oh, do it for me
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