A Piece of Her Lives on Through Her Art

My vision for preserving my daughter’s legacy through her art has miraculously materialized. We recently held the first (and hopefully annually) Emily’s Hope Art Show Reception and Auction. Every step of this journey has been unexpected and often filled with sorrow and joy. I never knew those two emotions could coexist in the exact same moment. When Emily died on May 16, 2018, the course of my life was forever altered. Shortly after her death, I wasn’t thinking about forming a nonprofit or helping people suffering from substance use disorder get into treatment. My sole focus was to preserve her art in some meaningful way. She put her heart and soul into every single one of her creations and now it is the only thing I have left of her. I owed her that.

I was on a mission to have each one of her paintings in my possession photographed by a gallery manager at our local college. That lead to a spark of an idea: to somehow use Emily’s art to help others. I wanted people appreciate her talent and how truly prolific she was at such a young age. I also wanted her artwork to raise awareness of the lost human potential to the world in this epidemic. When I began exploring the idea to hold some kind of showing of her work as a fundraiser, I never could have imagined how love would show up every step of the way.

I met with two of the people in charge of the visual arts center at our local museum. I could tell at first they were leery about what exactly I was proposing, But then, when they took a look at Emily’s art and realized it could also be an educational exhibition, they immediately jumped on board. The museum’s art curator said to me with a sigh, “Can you imagine how her art would have evolved, if she had lived and developed her full potential?” It’s that kind of bittersweet sentiment that has permeated every aspect of this journey to showcase Emily’s artwork.

Gradually people appeared to help with my efforts. An unseen force for good brought us all together and we formed an art show committee. Some of the members were old friends, but many were people I never knew before Emily’s death. Each one of them inexplicably appeared in my life and offered to lend their talent. We had the artist who had run a university gallery; the owner of a comic art company; the mother of a heroin addict with non-profit experience; the father of a young man who had overdosed and died, who also happened to be in charge of the museum’s maintenance; his girlfriend who was a graphic artist and could help us with all of our printed materials; a friend of a friend who just wanted to help. Each person brought their own gifts that collectively helped to make this a successful event. Each were committed to seeing it through. Then there were those who already had a connection: the mother of the children whom Emily had nannied; one of her former art teachers and a couple of long-time friends who had known Emily her entire life.

I say this is how “loved showed up.”  It is something I have noticed over and over again in my life since Emily died. There is an invisible energy that keeps bringing good into my life in the form of people who care; who step up to help with a selflessness I have never witnessed before. I am so grateful for these new friends I have made and the old ones who have stood by me and my family. It renews my hope in humanity and makes me proud of my community.

When I speak to large groups of people, I tell them this opioid epidemic, in which 192 people die a day, is all of our problem. People stare at me shocked with an expression that seems to convey, Well what am I supposed to do about it? But what I saw through the planning and execution of this Emily’s Hope art event, is people doing something about it.

While the committee members worked diligently to make it all happen, it also took the musician who volunteered her time and the entertaining auctioneer getting people to up their bids. Then there were the local businesses who helped with the promotion and funding. Of course there were also the people who took part on the night of the event; those who bought tickets and those who purchased art. And touchingly, there were the artists --- all 32 of them -- who donated their work to benefit Emily’s Hope. Also, let’s not forget the brave parents who stood up to talk about the loss of their children to overdose; as well as the busy politicians who took time out of their schedules to tell us what is being done in Washington DC to combat this epidemic.

Emily’s Hope Art Show Reception & Auction on April 26, 2019

I believe we are all connected to one another and this opioid epidemic is everyone’s problem. What I witnessed on April 26th was the coming together of hearts and minds, with judgment being replaced by compassion. It was, without a doubt, one of the most overwhelming and memorable events of my life. We raised a whopping $25,000 in one night to get more people into treatment and recovery. That is something I never, ever could have done alone.  

However, as Emily’s mom, it is all bittersweet. The first time I saw her artwork on display in the museum gallery I was overcome by emotion. She should have seen her work getting this kind of exposure and recognition in her lifetime. I am grateful that she did get that chance on a smaller scale, when a good friend of mine displayed her work at his business, months before her death. I must remind myself that she had that at least. Now, I also take solace in the fact that others are spending time appreciating her work. As they browse through the gallery, they are stopping at her signature piece “Clairvoyance” and discussing what it means. They are admiring the painting she did on the guitar. It is of some comfort to me that Emily lives on through her art and that her work is now helping others. I believe that is exactly what my sensitive, kind and talented daughter would want.

Faith, Hope & Courage,

Angela

P.S. There is still time to see Emily’s artwork on display and learn more about the opioid epidemic. “Emily’s Hope: Paint the Skies” runs through June 2nd. Click here for more info!