Mary Hill has been caring for her ailing mother for the last five years. Her mother has pulmonary fibrosis, among many other problems. Margaret Hill is at home, bedridden and under the constant care of her daughter along with private duty help. Recently, she is also under the medical direction of a local Hospice. I met Mary at a writing workshop and it was with a refreshing openness, curiosity and acceptance of the beauty of this thing we call life and death that Mary told me about her mother. I expressed an interest and love of sketching people in diverse scenarios. It was then with a tremendous leap of faith and generosity that Mary invited me to her mother’s home to meet and sketch her Mom. When I was introduced to Margaret, she clutched my hand with a surprisingly firm grip the whole time we talked. A CD was playing soothing Christian music by Ruth Fazal and when we weren't talking Margaret would close her eyes and hum to the songs. She falls asleep every night to this same music and at her request listens to these same songs many times a day. “They are my favorites,” she shares with a smile. I asked her if I could sketch and she gladly agreed. A rocking chair, and a great source of pride, as it is the same rocking chair that Margaret had rocked all 5 of her children and many grandchildren to sleep in, sat at the foot of her bed. I sat down in the seat of honor and quietly blocked in the scene and before long Margaret was fast asleep. Mary felt my presence and attention had a soothing affect on Margaret. Mary left the room to afford me quiet, focused time to sketch. Her mother breathed evenly with fresh oxygen being supplied by a noisy oxygen concentrator that was down the hallway in the living room. The machine made a constant sound much like a scuba diving apparatus.
From where I sat at the foot of the bed, I could see Mary down the hall at the kitchen table writing in her journal. I thought she might be curious about my drawing so once I had the features of Margaret's face set down in ink, I got up and quietly walked down the hall to show her. I tapped her on the shoulder and showed her the early stages of the drawing. She was moved to tears at the startling reality and solemn beauty of her mother. She said I had captured the essence and expression of her mother right down to the slight worry lines that often furrow her brow. I had never had someone cry when they saw my work before. I felt I was doing something important by documenting this fleeting moment. When I returned to work I proceeded with quiet deliberateness. Drawing and listening to Margaret’s breath left me with a sense of peace and a certainty that this was an important drawing.