Sometimes the most beautiful art swells from the most incredible pain.
I have created art since I was very small. I have cherished the blended line of graphite. I have felt my spirit soar as a swirl of pigment creates a fiery plume within a wet wash of watercolor. I have felt the ache within my shoulders and my fingers as I methodically prick the page and a profile appears.
Do you remember the art of the pinprick? I remember my second grade classroom in Oklahoma. I remember the children with their backs hunched over sheets of paper. Silence reigned within the room as we pressed stickpins upon the page again and again creating profiles. It was February. The room was cold. This was the month for gloves and the paper arts. This was the month of elaborate cards with hearts and loves and lace. This was the month for the faces of presidents.
So each child hunched over a pinprick Washington or Lincoln. Every once in a while a child would lift their sheet then facing the light, a half-finished silhouette of a great man would dance within sunlit dots upon the wall.
The art of the pinprick was painful. It took hours to complete. It was silent and repetitive. This was the holdover art of the Victorian era: a useful skill for a child to learn in preparation for years of labor before a mechanical loom or automotive assembly line. I do not see children create such art in the times we live within. Our lives are lived at such a frantic pace. We create a profile with minutes and place it upon our Facebook page. We do not spend hours pricking a face out of a blank expanse of paper to create a creature of light. We create pixilated avatars and send our electronic likeness through the cloud and within moments span the world.
But some profiles are made over the span of years.
This is Teresa Younkin’s jacket for the Walking Gallery: “Profiles.” I painted it within a few hours and it tells the tale of years won and loves lost. I love profiles. I love the stark silhouette upon the page. So much can be said within outline.
Teresa’s profile reaches up to the profile of her husband David. Ten years ago theirs was a happy family. They lived in Portland, Oregon with their three children who were seven, four and one-years old. They were so happy. Then the diagnosis came. David had primary brain cancer. But David was a veteran and the VA was using a new EHR system called VISTA. The system was new and David was so young. Every attempt was made to help the young couple.
As David and Teresa raced across the country for treatment, David’s data raced before them through VISTA. Their way was prepared long before David saw even saw his doctor. Information transfers that would have taken weeks were accomplished in days. When time was of the essence, David was treated with great speed and efficiency due to VISTA. Teresa still had to hand carry David’s military record and his second opinion records, but the reams of imaging results and other data transferred to and was read by the three doctors coordinating David’s care.
David tried so hard to live.
He had lost his own mother at six to breast cancer. He had so few memories of her. He was determined to live and love. He would create as many memories as he could for his children. David received cutting edge treatment. The entire family relocated to east coast to be closer to his doctors.
David beat the odds. He lived for six years past diagnosis. Six years of birthday parties, and hugs and memories. He saw his youngest child Faith turn six and would reach his 36th birthday. Then he died on June 6, 2006. 6,6,6,6,6 and the sixes spin on and on within this painting like yarn spinning toward the wheel. For this is a profile and profile comes from Latin: “pro” meaning forward and “filare” means to spin. Some may view an ever-spinning series of sixes with trepidation, but not Teresa. She views them with hope. Three sixes make 18 and in Hebrew that number is the number of life.
And for many a jacket, that would be the end of the tale, but not this yarn. It still unspools. In 2008, Teresa met Jim Younkin online. They met as profiles, electronic people connected by backlit pixilated dots. They talked data and HIT (Health Information Technology), for Jim worked at Geisinger Health System. Only then did Teresa realize the gift that VISTA provided. Only then did she realize how many wives lose their David’s and break their hearts in a world without easy access to and transfer of patient data.
One year after meeting Jim online, Teresa and Jim married. Teresa has a new love tempered by her first. Teresa loves Jim and she also loves HIT. She will do everything she can to spread the word to others. HIT saves lives and helps create memories. Teresa even joined SpeakerLink.org and you can find her profile among all the other powerful patient/provider speakers.
I will never forget Teresa. Her story sears my mind. And as I paint, I wear the ring she made for me. Teresa is a jewelry artist, when not working with HIT. She made this ring. She hunched her shoulders and spooled this wire for me to create a ring much like the one she wears.
Teresa describes the ring: “The stone has deep red sections that sparkle fiery orange flecks of color. I chose this stone for you because it signifies the two things that define your journey right now. If you move the stone around you will see the color orange, the color of kidney cancer. But the orange is not the primary color. The red represents the passion that you have for patient access to medical records. Without the flecks of orange this would be a pretty red stone. Both pieces work in unison to provide a beautiful amalgamation of your experience. The faceted surface represents the changes and experiences that make up your journey. The experience of death is not just one sided, it causes us to experience life in a whole new way.
The stone sits above the silver rings that make up the shank of the ring. On each side of the stone are short columns of silver. These short columns signify the strength it takes to live this life. Neither one of us ever imagined our lives would turn out like it has; face it nobody does. It is what we do with these experiences that help us to carry on. Each column supports the weight of the stone and lifts it to a higher plane.
Living through the death of a loved one does that. You begin to see life on a different plane. Gone are the days of the petty annoyances and inconsequential details. There is a mission in life and the weight of the responsibility can be overwhelming sometimes. You are strong and you continue to protect the foundation of love and continue to honor the life you and Fred started to build for your boys.
The wire that comprises the shaft and the holds the wire together is made of sterling silver. When you start working with the silver wire, it is pretty malleable. Once I have assembled the ring, I put it on a mandrill and bang away until the ring is shaped in a perfect circle. The neat thing about the wire is that the more you work with it the stiffer it becomes. So as I pound on the wire while I am shaping it, it becomes stronger and stronger. It becomes so strong it will hold its shape and not bend. It describes this experience. With each hit, you became stronger and stronger and now you are a source of strength for others.
I wear my ring together with a second ring that I had made while I was in Israel. My ring is gray-the color of brain cancer. The second ring has Jeremiah 29:11 engraved in Hebrew the ring. I wanted the true Hebrew translation to be put on it, which says: I knew in My mind My thoughts about you before you were you. I wear both of these rings on my right hand…because God has held me up with His mighty right hand. Together these rings help me to remember that this journey is not just about me, it is about what God has for me. I am His child.
I am glad our paths have crossed. Life is a tapestry and every experience is a thread that is woven together to make a beautiful masterpiece.”
Thank you Teresa. I am glad to spin with you, to feel the prick of the pin, and to hunch over our labors as the tides of years pass. We shall help create a world in which the Fred’s get the same treatment as the David’s and the children’s memories shall fill with birthday parties, happiness and hugs.