Daughter. Sister. Mom. Gigi. Friend. Lots of people called her different things. I called her Aunt Kim. I will never forget all the wonderful memories I have with my Aunt Kim growing up. Family was her life, her reason for living. Picnics in the park, swimming, water parks, George Strait concerts every year for my birthday. To each one of her four sons and her two niece's (that she had a big hand in raising) she had that 'special connection'. My own mother had to sacrifice so much by working multiple jobs to support my sister and I. My aunt stepped right in and treated us like her own. She'd come out of her way every Sunday to pick us up for church. At the time, I was never thrilled about it...but she did it for us. See, my Aunt Kim stayed focused for her family. For everyone else. She always made sure to ask us about our days. If we were upset about something she'd make sure we talked it out. And when we achieved great things, her praises were the best to receive. Her eyes would sparkle and her pearly whites shined through her red lipstick that she always wore! She was such a huge inspiration and positive role model in my life. She showed me how to be a good sister. To always be there for each other no matter what. To lean on, and embrace family with open arms during the highs and the lows. She was one of the strongest women I know. She has touched so many lives in such a positive way. She had a gift of making everyone feel welcomed and acknowledged. Even when she was sick and people just didn't know what to say, she would open up conversations and ask about their lives. She would explain to them her journey with her brain tumor to help them better understand the situation and break the ice.
Most of all she taught me how to be a wonderful aunt. I will carry that inside me and do my best to pass it on to my nieces and nephews for the rest of my life. Even though we can not physically hug her, I know...I know, she will forever be with us.
She must've known her life on this earth wasn't going to be long enough...so she treasured every moment and LIVED LIFE. She was always ready to keep going and doing. I will always remember her as the strong, fierce woman she was. She was the glue to our family and still is. A quote from the great Dr. Seuss was read at her funeral that I try to keep in mind when I get sad...'Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.'
And here is then piece I ended up creating for Candie's Aunt Kim. I felt very drawn to the image of a circle and all that it represents. To be whole, to be united, to be connected, to be strong... I took from Candie's words someone who's love extended far beyond just her inner circle, and an ability to reach and touch so many other people's lives by just sharing her light.
Joe was a free spirt and loved life and lived it to the fullest. He loved nature and everything pure. He was a musician and traveled the world playing bass in a band in his younger days and more recently before he had been diagnosed with cancer. He used to draw symbols on everything - peace sign, heart and double music note. He lived a simple bohemian lifestyle and loved hand made everything. When he moved into the apartment building he and my sister lived in, he turned the overgrown shrubbery in the buildings courtyard into an amazing succulent garden and built & created a patio and place for all the tenants to gather for summer BBQs and get togethers just because he felt like it, not because anyone asked him to do it . At his memorial, one of the tenants said before he was there, it was just a place to live. Once he turned it into a community, it became a family. The garden is now marked with a sign made of old license plates pieced together that says "Joe's Garden". He was the kind of person you just wanted to be around, and didn't have a mean spirited bone in his body. Everyone he crossed paths with never forgot him. As we celebrate his life on the anniversary of his passing, I remember him as an amazing human being and I am blessed to have known him while he was here on earth.
As I read Kathy's words, I felt very drawn to the two pics of Joe that had the sun setting over the ocean, which is why I decided to capture that in his legacy piece. Kathy had also sent me the the "peace, love, and music note" symbol that he drew everywhere, so I printed and traced that into his bowl as well.
My niece Danielle Renee Lemilliere was born on April 26, 1989. She was full of life, and would light up any room she entered. Nelly had a spark, a light, and there was just an incredible loving realness about her. Nelly's persona was the stuff of movies, where the beautiful woman enters a room and everyone stops and notices. She touched everyone she met in some lasting tangible way and she truly cared about everyone she came into contact with. If you were having a conversation with her, she made you the center of her undivided attention.
She deeply loved and was so devoted to her family and friends. She left behind her older sister Jennifer and a younger brother Garrett along with her parents Cheryl and Micheal. But the love of her life was her 2 year old nephew Jackson. She lived and breathed that child, he was the center of her universe.
She loved people, she loved country music, she loved to dance, to go muddin' and fishing and she always picked the horrible tasting jelly beans when doing the Bean Boozled challenge.
Our world has changed with her loss, the brightness has dimmed. We honor her memory with what she would want for us; to laugh, to love deeply and to enjoy life as she did. She may be gone from this Earth, but Nelly hasn't left us. She continues to touch our lives in many ways; with the blooming of her favorite flower a daisy, the flittering of a butterfly, little items that we find that remind us of her. Her love of people and most especially her family, paint a picture of her soul that made a lasting impression on so many for a lifetime.
As I read Carol's words and saw Nelly's pictures I felt that I really wanted to put all of my energy in capturing the "light" of hers the shined so brightly. Here is the bowl that I created in her memory...
"Just go with the flow, it's a part of life" was something that came to become Seth's motto. Seth was an avid backpacker, became an Eagle Scout and truly lived life to the fullest. When we heard that he had been diagnosed with cancer soon after his 16th birthday, he didn't let that slow him down one bit! He kept on doing the things that he loved; camping, fishing, hunting, and most of all being around his friends and family. Throughout everything that happened Seth was always there with his little smile and calm voice. Wearing his signature cowboy hat and boots, he truly touched everyone he met. Every chance he got, he told his story. Told people about how he was truly the blessed one, being able to make so many friends, touch so many lives and have so many new experiences. He was only 18 when he passed away, an age where most people are just beginning to start their lives. At his funeral he asked his grandfather to give an alter call. His biggest goal in life was to share his faith with his friends and family, and used every opportunity possible to tell his friends how blessed he was. Close to 30 of his friends came forward and were saved that day, and that was truly Seth's legacy.
As I read Brittany's words and saw Seth's pictures I felt that I really wanted to create something that showcased his "frequency" and how his presence still echoes in everyone that he met, and how now those people all shine a little brighter after having known him. Here's the bowl that I made in his honor...
In December of 2000 we found out that we were expecting our 3rd baby. He was due on August 27, 2001. My pregnancy started out perfect and then went downhill from there. I was on bedrest by 20 weeks with my cervix thinning and we had many ultrasounds to watch our baby. We learned that we would be having a baby boy but also learned that same day that I had partial placenta previa. Early in May when I was just 24 weeks I began preterm labor and was admitted to the hospital until the contractions stopped. After coming home it was just a few days before we had to go back. On May 27, 2001 I was lying in my bed and realized that my water had just broke. I was only 26 weeks and I knew it was way too early for our son. I was rushed into an emergency c-section and our son was born. He did not make a sound when he was born. I think I heard him squeak and then they intubated him and rushed by to the NICU. I begged them to let me see him and reluctantly they did. He was tiny and red and had a tube in his mouth and then they ran. I would not see him for 8 more hours. My blood pressure crashed and I spent a long time in recovery before they wheeled my bed into the NICU to see him. He was so small- just barely 3 pounds and almost 15 inches long. He had so many wires and tubes you could barely see him at all. Alex did great for being born so early. He was only on the ventilator for 12 hours and then he was breathing on his own. His biggest problem was tolerating his feedings which did not go well at all. He lost weight so fast and was 1 pound 12 ounces by time he was 10 days old. We were so scared but then he started growing. He began opening his eyes and looking at us once in a while and started to kick his legs occasionally. His big brother and big sister brought him his first toy to the NICU, it was a stuffed froggie and being a preemie, when he was lying there curled up, his little legs looked like a frog, he was so cute. He spent 6 1/2 weeks in the NICU before we were able to bring him home. He came home on July 20, 2001 weighing 4 pounds 6 ounces and 17 inches long. On August 10, 2001 Alex had his first well baby check up. He was 2 months old and growing fast. He now weighed 6 pounds 11 ounces and he was 19 inches long. The doctor told us that day that Alex was in perfect health and she saw no problems with him getting his 2 month shots that day. I was concerned since he was not even due to be born yet but she assured me it was fine. He was given 5 shots that afternoon and we went home. My husband was away on a military exercise so it was just the kids and I and we just played and watched TV and enjoyed each other and having Alex home. On Sunday, August 12, 2001, Alex and I tucked my other two kids, Christopher and Haleigh into their beds and went back downstairs for our time to just cuddle. He fell asleep in my arms before I could give him a bath or feed him so I decided to go change into my pajamas and brush my teeth before I woke him to be fed. I put him in his crib, in our room, he squirmed and peeked at me as I tip-toed away and I told him to give me just a minute and I'll be right back. Less than 10 minutes laterAlex had died. I got to him immediately since he had an apnea monitor I knew right away that something was not right. I stimulated him and that did not work so I began CPR and dialed 911. Just that fast our lives changed forever.
The days after Alex died are just a blur in my mind. I felt like I was in a nightmare and all I wanted was to wake up. We decide to take Alex to my hometown; Bastrop, Louisiana, for his funeral since we are military and move so often. The flight to Louisiana was like walking in a fog and then realizing where you are and not knowing how you got there. Family came from all over the country to attend Alex's funeral.
It has been 15 years since Our Angel got his wings and there has not been a day that we don't miss him and long to have him in our arms once more. Our other children were forced to grow up fast that day and they lost an innocence that they will never again find. They know now that people die and it's not just the older people. They know that sometimes babies die and sometimes they die for no reason at all. Alexander's death was ruled as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Simply stated SIDS means that they have no idea why this perfectly healthy baby died.
And here's the bowl I ended up creating in memory of Alexander
My mom loved gardens. She had a courtyard at her home that had a fountain with dragonflies on it. We had bought her strings of lights that were also dragonflies and I can remember how much she adored them. She found peace in her little courtyard surrounded by her dragonflies and beautiful flowers.
My daughter was 5 and my son was 2 when out of the blue my mom’s legs failed her and she took a serious fall. We had all thought she’d had a heart attack, but they ruled that out. Soon enough we found out that mom had ALS. At the time, my mom was the only one who even knew what ALS was. She was around when Lou Gehrig was diagnosed and said she distinctly remembers thinking, “what a horrible way to die”. After lots of research, her four children knew what this meant. We were losing our mom.
Nothing can prepare you for losing a parent, especially at such a young age. She was only 62 when she passed. She left behind four children who loved her as well as 11 grandkids and one great-grandchild. She was an amazing grandmother and her grandkids were everything to her.
Losing my mom completely changed my perspective on life. Not only did I have a greater understanding of how precious life was; I felt like my mom had handed me a torch. I came to the realization that I could no longer play the role of being a child, but now it was now my turn to truly become the adult.
Today, whenever I see dragonflies, I think of my mom. I think about how peaceful she felt in her courtyard with her dragonfly fountain and lights. It’s fitting to find out that the dragonfly symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self-realization, mental and emotional maturity, and an understanding of the deeper meaning of life.
Here is the bowl that I ended up creating for Janna...
Mitchell was a ravenous reader. I cannot remember a time that he wasn’t reading something. He was not above buying you a book as a gift and then borrowing it. So when someone shared with me, “You can’t pick up a book, read the last page and know what the book was truly about.” My heart knew this was true and I know Mitchell would agree.
My son’s last page was that he died by suicide on July 24, 2016. His father and I had anticipated that Mitchell’s life would be an epic novel, but that was not to be. His life ended abruptly on the cusp of manhood. No one saw it coming, not even Mitchell. Impulsive suicide is just that, impulsive.
Mitchell’s story and legacy lives on because the book of his life was filled with 21 years of love, life, friends, family and country. Mitchell was considerate, respectful and compassionate. He worked at being the best big brother he could to his sister, Hannah, and three brothers, Jackson, Samuel and Bennett. He always remembered their birthdays and wanted to make sure he got them something special. Recently, he developed a passion for motorcycles. His motorcycle family helped to ease his loneliness and gave him the support of a home away from home.
While he was incredibly intelligent, he didn’t take himself too seriously. A silly joke, a funny face or a dance contest showed his lighter side. Mitchell enjoyed participating in theater productions. He loved singing, water polo and photography. Mitchell loved a good argument, especially those that frustrated his verbal opponent. It didn’t matter what you were playing, he hated loosing and could never let someone win.
As a sailor in the Navy’s Nuclear Power School program, Mitchell was at the top of his class. He was proud of his service and we were proud of him. Mitchell posted on Instagram last October, “I wear my pride across my chest every single day. Those two patches are everything I need. (U.S. NAVY & BROWNLEE) My family and my country. I love my job, and I love the people in my life. Never lose sight of the things that are important to you.”
In the devastation of our loss, I share the story of Mitchell because I hope that it may save someone else the pain that we have suffered. At some point in our lives we all have a moment of hopelessness. I hope Mitchell’s story helps families to begin to have conversations about ways to cope with those feelings. Teens and young adults need to understand that suicide is not the answer, it is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Mitchell…Daddy and I are honored to call you our son. We will love you forever and you are always in our hearts.
And here is the piece that I ended up creating in memory of Mitchell. I really wanted to incorporate Mitchell's love for motorcycles as well as the sunset as that was a picture that he had recently send his mom.
My brother Adam was a vibrant sole, very intelligent always making good grades and self-teaching himself how to play his guitar. Adam was the youngest of three and only boy, his musical talents were above anyone else’s in the family, his love and passion for politics, and wanting the world to be a better place. Music was his therapy throughout his battle with mental illness. My brother lost his battle May 20, 2012 at 21 years old, one month shy of his 22nd birthday and my wedding. He picked out a song to play while I walked down the aisle, “Waiting on an angel”, by Ben Harper. We pushed out the wedding to the end of the year and I still walked down the aisle to the song he had chosen. Adam had friends on every corner in our neighborhood growing up and I remember picking him up from his friend’s house 2 blocks over, when I mean picking up, riding bikes home together. My sister Autumn, myself, and Adam used to chase the ice cream truck down the second we heard it in the neighborhood, sometimes it was more fun just trying to find it.
I have become an advocate for mental illness through Nami (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). My brother was about helping others and through him we carry on his name with my family to help others who battle with a mental illness.
It has been four years yet it feels like yesterday, the impact has been life altering for my family. Life is so precious, you’re never guaranteed tomorrow. We incorporated a symbol that our family uses a lot, the Faith Hope and Charity symbol. It’s the perfect representation of who he was as a caring and loving person. We are apart of two walks in the fall for Nami and Out of Darkness and have team shirts made with his symbol. In honor of Adam: Be kind to one another, love, have faith, and pay it forward.
And here is the piece that I ended up creating for Amber and her family. I really wanted to incorporate Adam's love for guitar as well as Amber's tattoo that her, her mother and her sister all share which symbolizes faith, hope and charity.
Telling Stories on the Love Boat by "Smurfette"
One day last year, about a month before my dad died, I told him, "Dad, I'm sorry you're hurting." he said, "Everybody is. It can't be helped". Even in his illness, he was a great and honest man.
My dad, Jim Wehe, was a mechanical engineer who loved-loved-loved new people and new stories. He collected both. I think he spent his 86 years collecting and sharing people, stories, and knowledge. Having met a new person and gotten their story, years later, he would delight in retelling it with just the right comedic timing. An interesting part of my dad’s own story happened when my family moved from Baton Rouge to Dallas in 1968. He bought a little thirteen foot sailboat - a Lone Star 13 - and at the age of 40 taught himself, and later his youngest son, the art and science of sailing. It's a science because: wind, angles, water, ropes, etc.; It's an art because... well... wind, angles, water, ropes! He knew the ropes and he knew the knots. At play and also at work, he studied and learned all the rules. He set an example of industry, exactitude, and integrity for my brother, his fellow sailors, all of his co-workers, and especially his family. My dad kept these precise practices of an engineer all his life, but if you asked him during his last months what his favorite thing was, he would answer with one word, the least rule-bound thing in his world: "Daisy".
My mother Daisy was not precise. She was a colorful Southern Belle born in Dixie, Georgia. She was the consummate hostess, and she loved to drink coffee and talk with friends. She was a nurse and a devoted wife to my father, whose habits and beliefs were hard to know. My mom just loved all people. All of her life, she gave all of herself to anyone who needed anything. She was a helper. If you needed help, she was there. If you needed a cup of sugar, or a pair of pliers, or some scotch tape, or a new calendar, she had it and would give it to you. She loved me, my three brothers, and her oldest grandson, who was like her fifth child, so very much.
My dad stayed with us until the November morning of their 57th wedding anniversary. Precisely at 11 am, he left. Then shockingly, the following month, my mom passed. I know they would feel most honored for our family to receive this beautiful gift.
They are now sailing peaceful waters. They were both the most beautiful humans to ever walk this earth. I miss them so much I can hardly breath sometimes. Everybody tells me not to be sad, because they wouldn't want that, and I do know that but, well, I guess in a way "It can't be helped".
As an artist, I love creating and telling stories through my work, so I really wanted the piece that I created for the Wehe family to tell a story, to tell their story, so here is how their bowl came to be...
I loved Susan's description of her dad teaching himself how to sail, so I found it only appropriate to use a sailboat to represent him. Sailing holds a special place in my heart, and from her words, I imagine that a boat suits him well....strong and flexible, precise and unpredictable.
As far as her mom, Daisy, I decided to represent her with nothing other than~daisies. I imagine with a name like that, she was gifted with many daisies throughout her life. But aside from that, I imagined that her soul was beautiful and giving just as flowers are to the world. I purposely put the flowers beneath the boat because I felt that from Susan's stories, that Daisy was a big part of holding her family up, and being a wonderful support.
I wanted to also incorporate all of Jim and Daisy's children, so I created 5 separate sun beams. As a parent myself I consider my children my light, and can only imagine that Susan and Jim felt the same way.
I specifically made the rim with a broken edge because to me there is nothing more beautiful than something real. And from Susan's beautiful recollection of her parents stories, I absolutely loved how the realness of her family shined through.
My grandmother Marjorie by Janice E. Davis
She was born in 1907 in Ames, Iowa, the only child of a railroad man and teacher. Her two aunts were also teachers that were very close and helped in raising her. Her grandparents also lived close and were a big part of her life. These influential women in her life instructed her cooking from scratch recipes that would be later handed down through the generations. She was taught to sew and make clothing without a pattern, crocheting and knitting, proper manners and etiquette, and stressing the importance of education from which resulted in her graduating from the local university.
She met and married my grandfather, in 1930, where he had just also graduated from the same college. After 7 years of marriage and struggling through the depression era, they found better opportunity in Los Angeles, California. He went out first with a promise of an engineering job at a ironworks foundry for the Navy’s fleet. After a year, she and my mom, who was 4 years old, joined him and found work at UCLA, in the library department. Her parents also came with her to take care of the children. She worked for 6 years, until their second daughter was born. Her husband felt it was more import.ant to stay home as a homemaker for their two girls. She remained a homemaker for the remainder of their marriage of 57 years until he passed.
She was an important role model in our family, gentle in nature, and a true lady in all sense of the word. In the early years, she made all of her daughter’s clothing, they raised all their own food, (chickens, garden, etc.), and she was very aware of the importance of nutrition and made all meals from natural ingredients. She loved nature and was a Girl Scout leader for not only her girls, but for many years after. She was also very active in her church that my grandfather founded with a group of men, she held bake sales, volunteered at various community charities and was a part of a quilters group sewing quilts to auction off for fund raising.
As a child, she would take me on short driving excursions to the local mountains, and I would go with them on camping trips to the Pacific High Sierra Mountains. She could recognize wild plants and wildflowers by name, and taught me the love of the outdoors and all it has to offer. I spent a lot of time with her as my caretaker. My mother was divorced when I was two years old and worked two jobs to make ends meet. I have many wonderful lasting childhood memories with my grandmother. She passed on a wealth of knowledge to me of cooking, sewing and the love of nature at every opportunity she could. During her life, she loved knitting and crocheting in the evenings and tried her best to teach me, but I was quite an active child, and would get easily frustrated and bored, so unfortunately didn’t end up with the talent, which I now regret. She knitted hats, scarves, blankets, ponchos, and even crocheted a bunting set for my newborn daughter to come home from the hospital in, (after 37 years, I still have it!). She crocheted doilies, and tablecloths and table runners, but most were given away so regrettably, all I have left is two doilies from her. She passed in1993, but she left me and my cousins, so much knowledge and memories that we can never put a price on. Her memory of lives on in me in everything I do in a daily basis.
And here is the finished piece that I created for Janice....A wheel thrown porcelain plate with Marjorie's lace doily pressed into the clay.