I was recently gifted with a recording stored on an ancient piece of technology - a cassette tape. He handed over a plastic compact case. “I have something to give you,” he says, “This is a tape of your grandmother telling all that God has done for you.” I had happened to be in front of an audience so I made every effort to keep tears from wailing up. But I couldn’t help it. I was holding an experience I hadn’t had in over 25 years, a moment with my grandmother.
After my engagement, I rolled to my vehicle with a big smile. It had been a while since I hadn’t been embarrassed at my outdated and “holding on to a string” wheelchair accessible van. It’s adorned with tattered carpet, missing air conditioned nobs, and non working windows. But there was one thing that DID work. The cassette player.
Her voice was so tender, lighter than what I remembered. But her strong reverence to God and her Brooklyn accent assured me, this was her. Eloquent words spoken with grace and vulnerability, she was addressing an engaged and filled congregation. I hung on to her every word. But as she continued to speak, I discovered she was, in that moment, fighting and seemingly loosing the biggest battle of her life- cancer. I listened once. I listened again. Each time her words broke me down and simultaneously built me up. In her dying moments, she was speaking life into me. Assuring me that I was God’s chosen vessel.
Grandma was right, as she adamantly shared in the recording, I’ve overcome many obstacles and have astounded many doctors. But if she’s looking down on me, she’d see that today, the luxury of carefree days can be difficult to come by. I get frustrated with my physical limitations, the cost of living with a disability, and whether or not this morning, my aide will show up on time.
But by God’s providence I received a message just when I needed it most, a message a quarter of a century old. It reminded me of who I am and to be grateful of where I’ve come from. It gave me the push to create a painting which represents power and ability. Royalty and strength. The traces of gold and the accentuation of strong blacks and bright whites tell of the boldness and strength we must put forth in the face of opposition. It’s copper and brown tones are warm and inviting, and representative of security and comfort. Yet even in such a beautiful piece, there’s an unplanned and unpredictable flow, simply representing life? Unruly, uncertain and difficult to maintain at times… yet, in all of it’s chaos, it’s life-purposeful and beautiful.