When I think of hollyhocks, I think of my beloved Nana. We would walk by Lake Erie together, and with her kitchen shears, we’d cut them down. The raspberry-colored ones were both our favorite. They looked like a flower that had been scorched by the sun. Then we’d walk back to her house, our arms full of the fragrant flowers, and we’d press the petals between paper so we could study the intricacy of each bloom — if only so we could attempt to draw them later.
She taught me how to paint. The first painting she ever showed me was of a cartoon elephant. She painted the elephant’s grey coat, his eyes — sad, but thoughtful, his trunk spraying water around his body. I watched her make something on a page come to life, and I knew I wanted to make things come alive too. I remember using watercolors for the first time — falling for the way the water hit the pigment, creating a burst of color on the page.
Her fingers held the paintbrush expertly; mine felt clumsy in comparison. Nana taught me the formation of letters and which colors blended well together. I taught her to toss out the rules, to think less and act more. We made our own paper, dipping it into dyes and scraping patterns with an old comb. She used gold gauche, and her fingertips were stained with golden flecks.
We would mail each other pieces of our artwork. We entered contests together. We both won in our divisions, and when she called me when we’d won, she said, “Congratulations, honey. I knew we could do it.”
Her calligraphy became a masterpiece; I founded my own style of font. Now, because of her, I’ve had four of my own art shows. Her work took my breath away, but it was her belief in me and the time she invested in me that meant even more.
My Nana made me an artist. She told me stories of how her grandfather painted letters and words on storefront windows in the 1900s. Then it skipped a generation and she was born: Joan Christine Gooderham, a master of calligraphy in every way.
And then there’s me. I hope I can teach my grandchild at least a fraction of what my beloved, precious Nana has given to me. I am an artist because she taught me how to be one.
Last night my Nana took her final breath. My Papa texted my mom, “It is finished.”
Tomorrow I will get on a plane and go to England for two months for an internship I must complete in order to graduate. Months ago, I couldn’t believe how God had orchestrated my trip to England. He had pieced together the timing perfectly, allowing me to be here for the birth of my baby niece and to arrive home before a dear friend’s wedding. I had praised Him for His goodness.
But this morning, I didn’t feel like praising Him. I will be gone for my beloved Nana’s funeral without having had the chance to say goodbye, and I was annoyed with God.
I cried angrily, “If nothing is impossible for You, why couldn’t You have allowed me to say goodbye to her?”
I didn’t feel like reading my Bible. I felt hurt by God, not protected. But I opened my Jesus Calling devotional and Bible, and saw this:
I am involved in each moment of your life. I have carefully mapped out every inch of your journey through this day, even though much of it may feel haphazard . . . Trust that My way is perfect, even in the midst of such messy imperfection. (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling)
The daily verse was from Psalm 18:30 (NLT), “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.”
My annoyance dissipated, but the sadness remained. I whispered, “I don’t understand Your timing, but I will trust Your way is perfect.”
Tomorrow, I’ll get on a plane to England with a heavy heart, and when I get there, I’ll think of all the things I’ll say to her the next time we get a chance to speak — in paradise. I’ll choose to trust that the path God has carved out for me is perfect regardless of how imperfect it may feel.
But I think before I leave, I’ll paint a picture of raspberry hollyhocks. I know my Nana will see them.