A Light on For Gary

We wrap ourselves up in our own patterns of reality.  The ones we weave into our neurons and embroider throughout our thoughts until we have a personalized cloak with which  to protect, motivate, and define ourselves .    One that suits us, that can cover us comfortably enough so that we can sleep at night.


With enough optimism woven in to allow us to wake up in the morning,

nic in quiltTo know that when we do awaken each day, we will keep our noses to the grindstone, busying ourselves with the piecing and the stitching together of these little lives that we call our reality.  And that our loved ones will be right there in front of us when we open our eyes.  Because along with all the other benefits, this cloak we create for ourselves comes complete with a healthy, if not delusional, dose of denial and immortality appliquéd right into the fabric of all our days.

We spend so much time planning and orchestrating what our lives will be.   We design our wings, our feathers, our crowns, our posture, our course.

learning how to fly

We continually arrive towards our form, and wait for our lives to happen.

grackle blackBut one day, we awaken to look up and see them.

DSC_0347Those vultures of time  circling around, wearing their cancerous shrouds,  ready to eat up a life.

vulture vignette  Just like that.  I don’t know how they choose who to take.  But there it is.  A positive space becomes a negative space, and the loved ones reel with the gaping hole left behind.

colorful positive space

Are there any tools or lessons  that ever really help us learn how to prepare for this negative space?

learning about negative spaces

This time it was Gary’s life that got snatched up by the cancer vulture.  A man who was such an inspiration to so many.  He taught  high school art for over thirty-five years.  He was a kind, talented soul, who gave so much.  He hired me for my first full-time art teaching position thirteen years ago.

frangi pani

When I heard he was sick, one short month ago, I called him.  I felt so far away, and wished I could come over and bring him an apple pie or something.  “You already did,” he said.  “Your call is the apple pie.”

hidden spider flower

He was that kind of person,  that made people around him feel good, no matter what.   In and outside of the classroom, he could find those hidden flowers and make them shine. That is one of the things that made him such a great teacher.

bright flower

Connie said when she went, she wouldn’t just disappear.  She would come back in funny, maybe even annoying ways.  Not the normal ways, she said.  Like blinking lights on and off and weird stuff like that, she said.

Although I am still not used to the cavernous hole she has left behind, I have felt her presence in so many ways; internally and externally, beautiful and funny, but never annoying.   I know that Gary will also come back in ways that will amaze and console his loved ones as they come out of the shock of being handed this cavern, this enormous negative space, this life without him.

negative scarlet ibis

This morning, I had Gary on my mind as I looked out the window.  I noticed Connie left a light on for him.

light on with yellow


16 thoughts on “A Light on For Gary

  1. Oh my Ellen, tears are rolling down my cheeks. It’s 11:30pm I had been in bed for an hour and couldn’t sleep cause I was thinking of Gary and family. What a beautiful entry you have created.And what a gift to be reading it now. The imagery and the woven words are a beautiful tapestry. The sky and the heavens give us amazing images. The other night the full moon graced by the planets was the sign I looked to knowing Gary was at peace. Goodnight ,dear friend, goodnight.

  2. Ellen you are not only a talented painter but you are an amazing writer. Thank you for your heart felt words. Love and miss you guys Donna

  3. ellen, thank you, thank you. I just love that your call was the apple pie. that is so Gary. love to you and your family. Kathleen

  4. Thank you Ellen, that was a great piece of writing. Simply stated I will miss him the rest of my life. Gary possessed the qualities of goodness and greatness. He could be everyone’s best friend, everyone’s mentor and everyone’s post to lean on. I think it is our task to continue the work he started, i know my hands will be doing his work here on earth. My best to you and Juni, Elias and Nicole.

    • Hi Richard. So glad to hear from you. I have been thinking so much about all of you, wondering how incredibly strange the art department must feel right now. I wish you all strength. I’m glad you can find the inspiration to continue his work. It is good work.
      all my best to you, Deb, and Jackson.

  5. Ellen, I am so delighted you recognized me and shared this with me. I wanted to thank you for your kindness and the comfort it gives me to know what a positive impact my father had on people. I told my mother you said hello and she was grateful and is wishing you all the best in your new adventures!

    • It was a pleasure running into you, Josh! And it would be virtually impossible not to recognize you, you have such a strong resemblance to your Dad. All the best to you and the whole family.

  6. Dearest Ellen, I found this internet address on a scrap of paper on Joshua’s bed this morning after he left for work. My curiosity sent me running for my computer. And there I found beautiful pictures and soothing words. I found love and hope. This emptiness is so hard to fill… I will never fill it. But with friends like Gary’s the love travels through time and distance like a warm spring morning and a small ray of light breaks into my darkness. I have not been able to express this loss and so I borrow your precious words until I can find my own voice again. Gary’s love is wrapping around me through you. I love you and I thank you. Patty

    • Patty! I am so glad, elated really, that you can find some ounce of comfort here in these words and images. I am sending much love and light your way. You can borrow my words any time. They are yours to keep. That’s what they are there for. with love and gratitude, Ellen

  7. Ellen, Patty sent this to me and I’m so glad she did. Gary was my husband’s brother. The hole that was created when he left us has been difficult to endure, but I love the visual picture that light can fill that hole. Your message full of light and joy has been a great reminder of Gary’s love and smiles for all of us. I loved your statement that Gary “could find those hidden flowers and make them shine.” Such a nice thought, and so true. I think now, whenever I see a special light it will make me smile just as big as he did, because it will be a happy reminder that his arms are still hugging us all.

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