Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Gift

Heather seems to be in constant motion. She has a grace and beauty about her that made me stop notice her at church one day. She is young and pretty but she has wisdom in her eyes beyond her years. I found out later that her life requires quite a bit of energy, emotionally and physically, with two of her four young children being autistic.

When I was asked by the Rich Foundation earlier this year to do a painting for a fundraising event, Heather was the first person to came into my mind. I knew very little about autism so I called her up and she gave me time to answer my questions, she also gave me a lot more.

Heather shared her story, a story about a young mother who didn't understand what she had been doing wrong. Her children were not developing and acting like their peers around them. The symptoms of autism aren't exactly cut and dried, so in some children, it's harder to diagnose. I had to bite my lip to keep from crying as she talked sincerely about her experiences. It's difficult to be a mother without these challenges added on top. She told me about how others, unknowing of her daughter's condition, have treated her. She didn't speak resentfully and she also told me about some good teachers and people. Heather reminded me of a very important lesson, always treat other's kindly and respectfully. I've thought about that a lot since that first visit.

I did sketches of my design and showed them to Heather before I got to work. The only thing I knew was that a puzzle piece is the symbol used to represent Autism. I drew a woman with a baby girl in her lap. Heather informed me that most children with autism are actually boys and that it probably shouldn't be a baby in the painting because children aren't diagnosed until they are a little older. After I let what I'd learn sit with me for while, that puzzle piece became a symbol of love, love from teachers and caregivers.

Thank you to Heather for teaching me so much. Now I know why she has that wisdom in her eyes, she's learned more about life and love than most of us have at twice her age. That's her gift.

Reproductions for My Gift will be exclusively through Boardman Frame House Gallery. I will be at the Fundraiser for the study study and treatment of autism on November 15. Proceeds from this reproduction will be donated to research. I feel grateful at this opportunity to give a little bit back.

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Deanna said...

That is so beautiful!!!
I am so amazed when I look over at church and see Heather sitting there with all her kids and she's not even freaking out at them like most of us would. They are lucky to have her as their mom.

jennie said...

What a neat post, painting and story! I need to get to know Heather, I admire her already. I love the painting Hun!


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