Abiding Love

godIn honor of the unusual juxtaposition of Friday the 13th with Valentine’s Day this year, I though it appropriate to share an account of enduring love born of tragedy.

A few weeks ago one of my neighbors approached me on the street. “Do you know of anyone who does portraits?” she asked. I told her that I didn’t and asked her what the subject was. She handed me a computer printout of a young girl kissing a newborn infant and said that she and a few friends were pitching in to have it made into a portrait.

“This is our babysitter. She is 17 years old and just gave birth to a baby girl prematurely, but the child was born without the necessary mechanism that will allow her to breathe on her own. They have decided to remove the respirator and let her go.”

12-05-08_1716I looked at the tender picture and said, “Will you let me try?” I have drawn portraits of people before but always of those that don’t actually exist. I had never tried one of a real person.

She agreed to let me and I set off to the art store. I thought about the different ways I could accomplish the soft portrait with pastels or watercolor or pencil. I purchased different kinds of paper and consulted my art guru, Aunt Patty, who warned me that it would be difficult but gave me ideas for how to go about it. 

I sat for many long hours at my drafting table, trying to capture the essence of this image that was blurry, pixelated, full of crazy color… and it seemed the harder I tried, the further I got from replicating the image as I saw it in my mind.

So I went to the computer and began to simplify the original image with Photoshop. I took out the extraneous background of the hospital room and removed the remaining color by reducing it to black and white. As I manipulated the image some more, using different tools to correct the pixelation caused by trying to enlarge a smaller picture, I realized that I had inadvertantly captured the perfect image. baby6_bw

The pure love and mature sacrifice made by this girl who had carried a child conceived out of wedlock to nearly full term, came through in this final image. I printed it out, matted and mounted it in a lovely frame, and gave it to my neighbor. 

I will probably never meet this girl but as I spent those hours staring at this image, I learned more about her, about art, and about love than from anything I’ve experienced before.

It is in the simplest places, the least complicated gestures, that we find the greatest art and the truest love.

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  1. betty
    February 13, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    What a wonderful gift you were given and that you gave.

  2. February 14, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Every time I do anything that I’m unsure of, I end up gaining so much more than I expected. And I guess that’s what faith is all about.

  3. February 15, 2009 at 2:53 am

    I am rendered speechless. I feel sad and hopeful all at the same time.

  4. February 15, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    That’s just how I felt… it was a mystical experience.

  5. Tina
    February 16, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    It turned out so beautifully…loved this post. Peace girl.

  6. Lisa
    April 24, 2009 at 9:09 am

    This is truly beautiful ellen. It reminds me of the day I recieved the portrait you had drawn after my fahers death….I sobbed on seeing it. Having experienced early loss I find it difficult at times to “know” what I’m supposed to feel…you are the only one in my world who gets that. I am not sure you realized the impact your gesture had then and now as a” tangible” in an otherwise intangible and confusing world. I truly treasure you for that….thanks

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