THE STORY BEHIND THE PAINTING

“YOU MUST BE BRAVE.” HE IS, SO I MUST. EVEN NOW AS THE HOURS WIND DOWN.

THE DARTMOUTH HITCHCOCK MEDICAL CENTER, LEBANON, NEW HAMPSHIRE GIVES ARTISTS THE VENUE AND VISIBILITY TO SHOW THEIR WORK. WHILE THAT OPPORTUNITY IS IMPORTANT IN ITS OWN RIGHT, THE UNDERLYING MISSION OF THE ROTATING ART EXHIBITS SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE MEDICAL CENTER SERVES A DEEPER PURPOSE.

I KNOW BECAUSE MY HUSBAND AND I BENEFITED FROM IT, WHEN WE WALKED THE CANCER ROAD.

THIS IS MY STORY

BEGINNING NOVEMBER 2000 THE DARTMOUTH HITCHCOCK MEDICAL CENTER BECAME SECOND HOME TO MY HUSBAND, WERNER, AND ME WHEN HE RECEIVED A STAGE III ESOPHAGEAL CANCER DIAGNOSIS., A BRUTAL DISEASE.

HEMATOLOGY-ONCOLOGY BECAME OUR PATH MOST TRAVELED ON THE WAY TO DOCTORS APPOINTMENTS. WE ALWAYS STOPPED ALONG THE CORRIDOR TO ADMIRE THE EVER-CHANGING DISPLAY OF PAINTINGS. ONE OF WERNER’S FAVORITE COMMENTS, ” YOUR PAINTINGS SHOULD HANG HERE.” I CHUCKLED. WE DIDN’T SPEAK ABOUT CANCER.

FOR TWO YEARS, WE WORKED AS A TEAM THROUGHOUT THE UPS AND DOWNS OF TREATMENTS, SURGERY, AND RECOVERY, AND REVELLED IN THE YEAR MARKED WITH NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE. BUT IN JANUARY 2003, OUR WORLD SHATTERED AGAIN. THIS TIME FROM THE WORDS NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR. “YOUR CANCER RETURNED, THERE IS NO CURE.”

WITH COMPREHENSIVE MEDICAL CARE, PALLIATIVE CHEMOTHERAPY TO KEEP THE CANCER AT BAY WERNER LIVED HIS GOALS TO FINISH THE SKI SEASON, TRAVEL HOME TO SWITZERLAND, AND CELEBRATE OUR SON’S WEDDING.

BY MID-JUNE 2003 THE CANCER BEGAN TO OVERWHELM HIS BODY. BECAUSE OF COMPLICATED BREATHING ISSUES WE ENTERED INTO THE MEDICAL CENTER ONE LAST TIME AND STAYED. THE PALLIATIVE CARE TEAM AND FLOOR STAFF SUPPORTED OUR NEED TO MAKE ROOM 107 HOME FOR BOTH OF US. A FLOOR TO CEILING WINDOW LOOKED OUT ON AN ENCLOSED GARDEN. THAT WEEK WE WELCOMED FAMILY AND FRIENDS, TOLD STORIES, SANG, HAD A PICNIC AND CELEBRATED WERNER. LOVE FILLED OUR HOME IN ROOM 107.

ONE SUNNY MORNING, WERNER SAID TO ME, “IT’S GOOD FOR YOU TO GO OUTSIDE AND WALK IN THE GARDENS.” I DID. MAYBE HE NOTICED I DIDN’T FEEL VERY BRAVE THAT MORNING.

ALONG MY WALK, I NOTICED THE SCULPTURE TITLED THE BLUE LADY. HER HANDS WERE FIRMLY PLACED ON HER HIPS. SHE HELD HER CHIN HIGH. HER STRONG STANCE DREW ME IN. I SPOKE TO HER NOT CARING IF ANY ONE NOTICED.

“YOU TOO SEEM TO STAND UP TO TROUBLE THREATENING YOUR WORLD.”

AS SOON AS I SAID IT, I THOUGHT OF ONE REQUEST WERNER MADE OF ME WHEN WE BEGAN THE CANCER JOURNEY, “YOU MUST BE BRAVE.”

WHEN I RETURNED TO MY BEAUTIFUL HUSBAND, I CARRIED WITH ME THE SCULPTURE’S VISUAL SYMBOL OF COURAGE. MORE IMPORTANT, I ALSO CARRIED THE REASSURANCE OF GOD’S CONTINUED PROMISE TO SUSTAIN MY COURAGE TO HONOR WERNER’S ONE REQUEST OF ME, “YOU MUST BE BRAVE.” GOD KEPT HIS PROMISE

AFTER THE ART DIRECTOR FINISHED HANGING MY TWENTY-SIX PAINTINGS, I THINK IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN WERNER’S TURN TO CHUCKLE.

THE BLUE LADY PASTEL PAINTING AND MY STORY HANG IN THE RECEPTION AT THE NORTH ENTRANCE TO THE NORRIS COTTON CANCER CENTER AT DARTMOUTH HITCHCOCK MEDICAL CENTER.

WHAT WAS THE DEEPER MISSION AND BENEFIT I RECEIVED FROM THE ART PROGRAM?

THROUGHOUT THE CANCER JOURNEY I TOOK WITH MY HUSBAND, THE ARTWORK OFFERED BOTH OF US MOMENTS TO STEP AWAY FROM THE TOUGH DAYS AND ALL THINGS MEDICAL.

WHEN I WALKED THE CORRIDORS BY MYSELF, THE ARTWORK MINISTERED TO EMOTIONAL STRESS AND GAVE ME A HIDING PLACE TO SHELTER WITH GOD. A VISUAL REFUGE.

THE ART PROGRAM SERVED ITS PURPOSE AS A THOUGHTFUL WAY AND AN EXTENSION OF CARE FOR PATIENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES.

ART WITH PURPOSE, FOR BEAUTY, FOR JOY, FOR THOUGHT THROUGH VISUAL EXPRESSION, AND FOR A DEEPER PURPOSE -HEALING.

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