Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mary Hill

I first met Mary Hill in 2009 at a writing workshop called, "Writing Your Life". It was August 9th, Mary's birthday, and she treated herself to learn something new. Mary was late to the workshop, so she didn't end up in my sketch that day. After the workshop, we talked in the hallway for some time. She had studied healing and psychology in California. She returned to Orlando to take care of her mother who was bed ridden with fibrosis and other aliments.  Mary ultimately gave up five years of her life to take care of her mother. I visited the Hill house and sketched Margaret Hill. At the time my own step-mom had cancer and she had to be put in a retirement home. I respected Mary for the care she gave to her mom. I returned to the Hill residence multiple times, feeling privileged to get to know both Mary and her mom.

On one visit, Margaret's breathing grew shallow and panicked. She was moved to her bed where Mary placed her hand above her mother's chest and prayed. She would take the negative energy and then exhale it into the corner of the room. Within minutes Margaret was fine and she fell fast asleep.  This was a spiritual form of heeling I had never seen before. If I hadn't seen it first hand, I wouldn't have believed it. Mary felt something flow through her when she did this and she knew it was god's healing touch that she helped manifest. Mary probably had the most faith of anyone I have ever met. At times she expressed feeling closer to god in her prayers and meditation than she did in the harsh grind of everyday existence. Angels often appeared in the art created by Mary.

We decided to collaborate on a project called "LifeSketch." Mary would interview residents of a retirement home while I sketched. Interviewing people in their golden years was incredibly rewarding since stories and lessons learned over a lifetime often seemed to profoundly reflect what what was happening today. Mary had a natural way of getting people to open up to her which resulted in very enlightening interviews. Mary would condense the interview into one page of precise heart felt copy. That article would then be matted and framed beside my sketch and presented to client. Often multiple copies would be made for children and grand children.

When her mom died, Mary comforted everyone else at the funeral.  It was only after her mothers ashes in a cylinder were lowered into a shallow hole at Woodlawn, that Mary's knees gave way, and grief enveloped her. She always wanted to care for others and after her mother's death she got a state license and opened her own healing massage office. I was sure that through word of mouth, that business would grow and thrive.

Mary always knew how to make me laugh. She also knew how to listen and accept tears. I grew up in a Methodist family that hid all emotion, so it was surprising to see how she left nothing checked when she experienced the lows and highs of grief and humor. I felt that openly expressing sorrow was a sign of weakness, but she let the full spectrum of emotion wash over her.

I remember talking to her shortly after she broke up with her boyfriend, Berto Ortega. The relationship was on and off. Though separated, they still talked often. She said that she could go anywhere and do anything now that she was completely on her own.  I had assumed she would travel to an exotic country to do missionary work after her mom died.

Berto was a talented plein air painter. After they broke up, he took a trip in his truck to the Grand Tetons where he did several paintings and then shot himself. He left quite a few suicide notes for friends and clients but he didn't leave a note for Mary. Only now can I begin to imagine the sense of grief and guilt she must have felt.

As I was sketching in Berto's studio at FAVO, Mary came in with several paintings that Berto had left with her. She leaned over and read with some interest a suicide note full of thanks and appreciation Berto had left with Will Benton. Mary hugged me and I asked her, "Are you OK?" She replied quite simply, "No, Pray for Berto's relatives and pray for me." That was the last thing she said to me. She left the studio and was gone.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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