Painting and death may seem strange bedfellows, but in my life they’ve been coming together like two peas in a pod. It’s happened twice now in fifteen months. With my mom, I painted my way through seven weeks of ICU and five months following her death. When I ran out of rooms, I stopped.
Last Sunday, with a free can of paint in hand, I began my second painting rotation, limiting myself to the vestibule walls. I had no designs on painting its ceiling or smallish open cloakroom, as I thought the new grayish blue would become a good neighbor. Monday’s morning light proved how unfriendly it was — as I was waking up to two more days of painting, my Aunt Carol was waking up to something so much worse – without a notion that her husband of fifty-five years would soon be dead of a heart attack. I heard the news Tuesday morning.
As I slipped into my old familiar mourning attire – a pair of old paint-smeared sweats – I slipped into that much familiar practice of grieving with a paintbrush. And as the cloakroom became a soft black and the vestibule ceiling a creamy white, I thought of Carol and Sonny, holding both close to my heart, and of the many days of summer vacation I had whiled away at their house and all the wonderful memories they had gifted me with– like swims at Twilight Beach and eating watermelon at the Rush Springs Festival. Painting is a good way to say goodbye. My mind empties of everything else, so that I am free to settle into peace and quiet, centered on the task before me. Fully in the present, I sense God in a manner that’s both healing and comforting. It’s just me and God, creating a little beauty together. And each and every time I paint, I recall those comforting words written in the book of Revelations.
“Behold, I make all things new.”
My paintbrush teaches me that transformations happen quickly – in the blink of an eye—as quick as a hand can brush up and down the wall. My faith tells me that death brings resurrection for the dead in the same fashion.
It will sound strange not to speak their names together. These peas in a pod are no more; just as my painting is no more — both just for a while. With the comfort of painting gone, it’s time to think comfort foods. And what better, than Aunt Carol’s own recipe for home-made yeast rolls–one of life’s small comforts.
Aunt Carol’s Yeast Rolls
1. In a cup, mix ¼ cup of lukewarm water, a pkg. of active dry yeast and 1 T. sugar. Set aside – Let rise.
2. In a large bowl, mix ¾ cup of lukewarm water and ¼ cup of Milnot Cream. Stir in 1 cup of all purpose flour. Fold in the yeast mixture.
3. Add 2 more cups of all purpose flour. Mix – Knead – Let it rise. After one rising, punch holes in dough with your fingers and let rise once more. (Allow 2 to 3 hours for both risings)
4. Butter your hands to shape the dough into small balls, place in a buttered pan. Let rise once more. (Up to an hour) Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.