On a recent Sunday my husband and I were installing my new old Griffin etching press into my studio. The press weighs about 600 pounds, so once I decided the placement this is where it would stay. No pressure. Just when I settle on an inch here, an inch there and I say “I think this is good” my cell phone rang. Even though I was right in the middle of making decisions and cleaning the studio and moving furniture to fit the press in, and my husband was looking at me like “okay now we have to get the press off the rollers” and the music was rocking, I answered my phone, which is not something I would normally do when I am busily engaged in a project.
The woman on the line said her name was Robin and that she was trying to place an order on my web site but she coudn’t get it to work. I asked her what part is not working and tried to pin point the problem. She began to cry. I turned off the music and held up my hand as a signal to my husband that I needed to deal with this call right now and the press would have to wait, even though I had waited two and a half years for this press.
Robin told me that she was in stage IV cancer and was in hospice care and that she just couldn’t seem to follow the steps to complete the order. She shared with me how much she has loved my work and that my images made her less fearful about her death. She said that she had a little money left and that she wanted to buy my work to give as gifts and thank-yous to the people she loved and to all the people who had helped her through this dying process. She wanted me to send the prints and cards overnight to Portland where she lived. I told her that I could do that and she gave me her order over the phone. She placed a large order and said that the giclee print of “She Let Her Words Fly Forth as Blessings like White Birds Cheering the Heart” (above) is one that she was keeping for herself because it makes her feel safe and held and had a healing quality that spoke to her heart. I was feeling choked up and very honored by what Robin was sharing with me. I asked her if there was no chance to beat this cancer and she says not at this point, there was only a little time left to her. When she said this I suddenly saw her surrounded by luminous beings with their arms outstretched waiting to catch and help her. I had only known Robin for fifteen minutes but I saw this image in my mind’s eye very clearly. So, I believe her. I told her about the vision I saw around her. She got teary and I got teary. I told her that I would get the order in the mail the first thing in the morning. We said our heartfelt thank-yous and goodbyes.
When I hung up the phone I knew that I was going to drive to Portland even though I couldn’t afford to take the time but I knew in my heart that I couldn’t afford not to. I wanted to make sure that the order got to her safely and the only way I could be sure of that was to take it to her. It took me the rest of the day to print out the giclees and to assemble the order. I would drive up Monday and back on Tuesday because I had to get the studio ready for a class on Wednesday.
I called Robin the next day and she was immediately concerned about the order. I told her that instead of sending it I was going to deliver it to her. She was relieved and so happy. She was worried that she was going to die before she could make sure the art work went to the right people. I couldn’t leave Ashland before 3:00 but I would do my best to get there between 7:30 and 8:00. This would work for her. On my drive I reflected on all the times lately that I have been thinking “Does it really matter what I do? Does what I do really make a difference?” This past year was the busiest year I have ever had. And I can really stress out trying to get things done like shows and deadlines, new art ideas, working time at the Ashland Art Center studio, time working at my home studio, teaching, home life, walking. And when I am tired I think “why am I doing it?” Then I got a call from Robin and I know why I do the work I do. I am so humbled by her situation and the fact that one of the last things she wants to do in her life is to buy my work and give it away to her loved ones. What a gift she has given me. I will remember this. I asked her how she knows of my work and she says that her counselor has several pieces of my work in her office and that her counselor saw me on Oregon Art Beat. We just can’t know how the little things we do will affect people or when. That Art Beat segment was 4 years ago.
I made it to Robin’s apartment between 7:30 and 8:00. Her best friend and care-giver Theresa was there and they both welcomed me like an honored guest. But I was the one blessed to be allowed in to this very private life and death event. I didn’t know what I was going to say to her but I wasn’t worried about it. I just knew that being fully present and just showing up is enough. I gave her a gift of a Story Art book. I wanted to give her something new so that she could enjoy it for as long as she had left. She was thrilled with the gift and she gave me a gift of a small carved wooden bear. This meeting for the first and last time was very poignant. Robin told me that when she is on the other side that she will be an advocate for me and my work. I thanked her for that and we said our heartfelt goodbyes and soul-to-soul thank-yous.
Robin lived for another six days and she was able to give all the art work to her loved ones, including a personal note that accompanied each piece. For someone I had only known a week she has had a huge impact on my life. I am humbled and awed by her affirmation of me and my work. Thank you Robin Hall you have blessed my life and I am grateful to have known you.