Sunday, January 31, 2010

Brick Walls

Dear Friends
Sunday morning again. The cat and I made it through another week. It might be more accurate to say I barely squeaked by during parts of the week, but squeak by I did, and I take some measure of victory from that.
The reality of it all has started to sink in. She's really not coming back no matter how much I pretend. No matter how much I go about my day staying busy, busy, busy, she is not coming back. There is no way I can avoid this truth, regardless of my best efforts to do so. It catches up to me during the day and by late afternoon I find myself on the couch in a fetal position watching old movies. Yesterday I had a really great sobbing, snorting, wailing and cleansing session, the kind where your stomache churns and your chest aches. I had been avoiding it for weeks, but it finally broke free. It wasn't pretty, but I felt better afterwards. This is how it's going to be, the brick wall keeps rebuilding on the path in front of me and there's only one way to move through it. Honestly, I have no other choices.

I've decided to name the gallery Lucky Girls. Ellen and I always talked about how lucky we were, even after she was diagnosed. Despite everything, despite a crying session on the couch every day, I know how lucky I still am. I have wonderful friends who have been such a comfort and support, this gallery adventure is really happening, decisions are being made, things are falling into place and the cat seems to tolerate my company most of the time. It's a balance, holding on to the good while feeling the depth of this grief. I am under the guidance of an angel.

Lucky girls we are.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Dear Friends

It's Sunday morning. I am in bed, with coffee and the cat, thinking about this past week. It's been a week of up and down emotions, of dark places, of decision and change. It's been a roller coaster, with my hands in the air and lots of screaming.

I spent the week searching for studio space here in New Orleans, knowing I need to get to work as soon as possible. I decided to at least give it a try to stay, even though I have the house and studio space in Orlando. It's more logical to return there, but logic has always taken a back seat to my emotions. My heart wants to stay here. I searched most of the week for a space to work and I searched just about everywhere in the city. On Monday I saw a storefront space on Oak Street, which is just three blocks from my house. Through the week I kept getting drawn back to it and on Thursday I made a decision to lease it. It's large enough to have a working studio area and also a gallery space, which is something both Ellen and I have always wanted to do. It's a big, risky, grand, and crazy adventure.

It's perfect.

Ellen would be so happy I am choosing to do this. She was always supportive of my work, encouraging me to "take it to the next level". I have no doubt she has been guiding me in my search this week, no doubt she would have wanted this for me. Before we moved here from Orlando she told me she was going to do something special for me when we got home to New Orleans. She wouldn't tell me what it was, wanting it to be a surprise. She declined so quickly when we got home she never was able to follow through on her promise and I never knew her secret. Now I know. I would say I am sad she won't be here to share it with me, but I know better.

I hide out under the covers in bed, I take long walks, I talk out loud hoping Ellen can hear me. The cat stares at me while I cry in my cereal. I miss her every minute and I am very sad. But I know, I really do know, she is here with me. She wouldn't want me to lay around and wallow, in fact it would really annoy her to no end. If I am going to carry her name forward, if I am going to become something better because of her, this past week was the beginnings.

I believe she can hear me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Now What

Dear Friends
It's early morning here. I'm hiding in bed with the cat. We have become best friends, especially since everyone has left and she has realized I'm the only food source available. I talk to her constantly, she stares at me, she lays on my stomach, she tolerates my crying sessions and I am beginning to realize she is much smarter than I am. She sits still with her grief, staring out the window. I have a lot to learn from this cat.

I've decided to continue writing on this blog for awhile. I think it's helped me to express my feelings and from speaking with many of you, perhaps it's helped you deal with losing Ellen as well. I cannot understand all of the raw emotions flowing through me these past couple of weeks, but I know I have to sort them out and begin this difficult journey of finding "me" again. It might get ugly.

Ellens service was beautiful. It was such a loving tribute to her and so many friends and family traveled to be here for it. I think what most people seemed to take from the service was the feeling of a positive and healing love. It brought us close to Ellen and each other, it comforted us, it helped us understand who she was in this world. It was uplifting. It was a lovefest. It was so Ellen. I know I will carry this with me these next months, reminding me when I am down, hiding in bed and not sure how to put my foot on the floor. This is who Ellen was in this world, a healing message of love.

The cat already knew this.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dear Ellen

Dear Friends.

First of all, I want to thank all of you who have continued to support me, who traveled from near and far to be at Ellens service. It meant so much to me.
I will write again this week about the service, but I wanted to post the letter I wrote to Ellen and which was read at the Mass by our friend Donna. I will also be posting the eulogy our good friend Greg delivered at the service.

Dear Ellen
You changed me.
I met you at a point in my life when I never thought I'd find you and there you were, walking into my booth at Jazzfest to buy a painting and walking out with
my heart. I was permanently smitten by your beautiful brown eyes and constant smile. By your love of life, by your infectious laughter, by your great big and loving heart. I adored you.

My life changed when our lives joined together. We created a home, we created a circle of friends, we created a safe place for our love to grow. I was never happier. You were my muse, my art became yours, your spirit infused and inspired me. Your support allowed me to become the artist I aspired to be. Our life was busy with travel, work, entertaining, family visits and all manner of adventures, but what I remember most about you was your desire to be a homebody. Sunday mornings would find you in bed, your cat curled up next to you, a cup of coffee on the nightstand and the Picayune spread around you. Sunday afternoon might be a bike ride, weeding your flower garden, floating in the pool and lying in the sun. We cooked together often and your gumbo made me swoon. Your coconut cake would bring me to tears, your pecan pie to my knees. It was those simple things we experienced which made our relationship so magical.
Our love grew stronger and I adored you.

Our lives changed with Katrina, as it did for all of our friends. We left our New Orleans home confused and sad, but determined to make a better future. We ended up on a beach in Florida. What I most remember of those summer months would be the vision of you, in flip-flops and hat, heading to the beach. The beach is where you found your center, your serenity, your smile and I am so thankful you had that summer. One day we rode our bikes for miles to the very end of the beach where the ocean met an inland waterway. We were completly alone. The ocean stretched to forever, the birds scattered all around us, it was achingly beautiful and you were in Heaven. We stayed there a long time, drinking it all in, enjoying the God-given moments. I will remember you always with the wind and water, the sun on your face. You were so happy, so beautiful.

Our lives changed once more when we were stunned by the diagnosis of your brain cancer. One day healthy and strong, the next your life altered in incomprehensible ways. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, you endured them all with little complaint. Our emotions, our strength, our faith were tested in ways we could never have imagined. Your passion for life, your compassion for others, your appreciation for simple things intensified. The things we thought so important to us before, no longer were. Finally, this past October we made a decision to move back to New Orleans. You were so happy to be home, so happy to be near friends and family, back in the city you loved. I wished you could have had more time here, but I know, deep in your heart, it didn't matter. You were where you belonged, at last.

Over the weeks and months of your illness we both changed. Our lives condensed into something simple and pure, stripping away layers and layers of our very selves. Our love, our relationship, our trust in each other grew as the layers fell away. At the end, we had said all that two people can say to one another, we had no regrets, there was only trust and love. The last weeks of your life you lost your voice, but my love, by then there was no longer any need for words. Your eyes told me everything.

Ellen, you were never defined by cancer. You were, and always will be, defined by strength, grace, and a determination to live and love fully. You taught me and everyone you touched how to laugh and love, how to accept life and now, how to let go.
You changed me. I am a better person knowing your love, your touch, your heart.

I adored you. And I always will.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wednesday evening

Dear Friends

I have set a date and time for Ellens celebration, which will take place at St.Marys
Catholic Church here in New Orleans. This is a church affiliated with the Father Seelos shrine and so important to Ellen in her final months. It seems most appropriate to hold her service in such a beautiful and sacred place. The service will be held on January 14th at 4:00P.M. with a number of friends and family taking part in the service.
I have appreciated all your thoughtful notes, messages and phone calls. I am doing my best to take care of myself, but as you can imagine, there have been many difficult moments, with many more to come. My good friend Donna will continue to stay here with me for the next week and I am thankful for her company and friendship.

Please continue to keep Ellen and I close to your hearts.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The next day..

Dear Friends
It's evening, a long day after the passing of Ellen. I am sitting in bed with Ellens cat curled up at my feet. "Iggy" is confused and sad, but I think I made things better by wrapping Ellens big old bathrobe around her. I told her I understood, that I would take care of her. She seemed to understand, in my feeble human way, I was trying to help. We are both in this together.

Ellens passing was peaceful and very beautiful. Her sisters, Beth, Carol, Carol's partner, Irene, my good friend Donna and myself, spent the day with Ellen. We surrounded her bedside, holding her hands and stroking her face, speaking to her with great love. Towards the end, her breathing changed, becoming quiet and slow. Moments before she stopped breathing, I looked at her face and saw, clearly, a glow of light. As though her face were bathed in escaping light. She took several slow breaths and then stopped. It was so silent, so sacred, so incredibly peaceful. I felt the presence of something powerful, joyous and comforting. I know, deeply, she was lifted up and carried to a truly beautiful place. There is no doubt in my heart about this. A cold and cloudy day and with her passing, the sun broke through the clouds. I can't explain all of this, I can only express the awesome power which everyone in the room experienced.

When Ellen was a young child, she had a wonderful Great Aunt who was a strong and loving presence in her life. She was "Aunt Nan" and Ellen adored her, speaking so often of her with great affection, especially in the recent months of her illness.
They had a very special bond. Nan died January 4, 1990. Twenty years to the day, she came and carried Ellen home.

We are planning a service for Ellen, hopefully for next week, either on Wednesday or Thursday. I am trying to arrange the location for the service so that those of you who wish to attend can make preparations. I should know more by tommorow and will post the information. As part of the service I would to invite all of you to express your thoughts or memories of Ellen in a short note to her. I will take all of these messages of love and place them in a box for her at the service. You can email your message to her at:, or mail it to: 1031 Fern Street, New Orleans, LA 70118.

I will post again tomorrow with information regarding her memorial service.

Thank you so much for you loving prayers of support. I know she still hears you.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Saying Goodbye

Dear Friends

Ellen, my love, passed away peacefully this afternoon at 4:20.
She was beautiful, it was incredibly spiritual and I know she is happy and
Your loving prayers, all of you, lifted her from this world to a joyous place.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I will write again tomorrow, there is a wonderful story about her passing I would
like to share. I would also like to ask you to participate in her celebration which I hope to be planning in the coming week.

I am sad, I am numb, I will be lost without her, but I am happy knowing she is finally free.

Monday morning

Dear Friends

I am again sitting next to Ellen's bedside. She has reached the point when her body is shutting down, her breathing labored and she has lapsed into a coma. Her heart rate is very high and has been since yesterday afternoon. I stayed by her side last night, listening, holding her hand, talking to her. I believe the end is very near, possibly this day. It's painful to watch her labor, painful to only watch and wait. We have all, her friends and family, encouraged her to let go, to be free of the body which holds her soul hostage.

She is so beautiful, even now.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

January 2

Dear Friends
Yesterday morning Ellen declined again, spiking a high fever and not rebounding from it. We suspect she has bled into her brain again, or the tumor has affected her body thermostat center. She is not in a coma, but lies quietly or sleeps most of the time. Her breathing is labored and we have stopped giving her nourishment or fluids due to the danger of choking. We are keeping her medicated with morphine and I have been told repeatedly she is not in pain or uncomfortable. Her wishes were to remain here at home and that is what I intend to do.
At this moment, she is sleeping. I listen to her breathing. I gaze over to her as I am writing and she appears peaceful, a very small smile at the corners of her mouth. I wonder what she is dreaming about, but I can imagine it's a sweet dream, with plenty of angels. I take comfort knowing she isn't in pain, knowing she is surrounded by love, knowing she is home where she wanted to be, knowing she will soon be free of the cancer.

She is beautiful and brave and such a sweet, loving soul. I feel so blessed she let me share this most sacred journey with her.

I know you all will keep her close in your prayers.