From the moment it was assigned, my son knew immediately what subject matter his mixed media art project would cover.
He came home asking me for purple paints and ribbons and a picture of his late father, Joe. He wanted to honor his memory through tribute art.
I excitedly pulled out the massive art bins that held a variety of supplies including an array of purple paints and various unopened bottles of Mod Podge –all of which once belonged to his father.
He printed out messages of hope and advocacy to cover the canvas and helped pick the photo to be displayed front and center. We talked about when and where the photo was taken, how he first got diagnosed with this disease and what it means to be an advocate.
All done with enthusiasm and pride.
When finished, he informed me that he would be presenting this project to a classroom filled with teachers and peers as part of his final, his first semester final of High School.
How very brave, I thought.
The morning of his presentation, he reminded me that he would need to dress up for the day and needed a tie. He asked to wear the purple pancreatic cancer awareness tie he wore last June to graduation.
I was doing fine with all of this.
We’ve all come a long way dealing with this loss and being comfortable sharing our thoughts and feelings about Joe’s death. There are always bittersweet emotions that play out, but now, fortunately, they lean more towards the sweet.
I found the tie and helped him tie the Half Windsor knot. Another reminder of a role best suited for his father but now given over to me. Almost out the door, he turned to me and asked if I had any of dad’s dress shoes he could wear.
Again with the shoes.
Why do the shoes always get me? (For another shoe story, read my Cultural Fair post) We were almost out the door.
I did have a pair of Joe’s shoes. Still in the closet. My teenage son’s feet now big enough to fill them.
And off he went.
All sorts of emotions began stirring within me as we made the drive to school. To further challenge me, the kid we picked up for carpool jumped into the car wearing a bright purple shirt. So much purple. I made it through the drop-off and then lost it on the drive home.
The recap of the day was, as always is with a teenage boy, rather brief. “It went really well, but I had to speak fast to get through the end without getting emotional.” Imagine. I had to drive fast out of the parking lot to keep my emotions at bay, and I wasn’t the one presenting.
While these moments will always hold emotional stock, they also hold great opportunities.
Opportunities to share memories and stories, laughter and tears. Opportunities to embrace what once was and how beautiful it now is. And most importantly, to feel the incredible pride that comes along with experiencing your child, having gone through such tragedy, being able to openly honor and appreciate his father with a tributing work of art.
Embrace the opportunities.