Tag Archives: Creative Expression

Why I Love Working With Dying Children.

2 Dec

I read an article recently by a woman who teaches poetry and prose to dying children. Throughout the article, the author regularly mentioned how a certain little boy’s death would one day prevent her from ever returning to work. That little boy became another little girl who became yet another child. They all faced something we don’t talk enough about: death. Eventually, the author mentioned how this work contains so much sadness and fragility, and yet it is also the work she could never dream of walking away from.

Ever since August of 2013, I have been interning with Arts For Life, a NC-based non-profit organization focused on teaching art to children and families battling serious illnesses and disabilities. Specifically, I work with two populations of children: children undergoing treatment for cancer and other blood disorders and children undergoing physical, occupational, or speech therapy. I began this internship for a variety of reasons. However, the main one was due to my previous hospital experiences. As a child, I had to undergo three intense surgeries, which later included intense physical therapy, and I spent all this time in the hospital. During this time, the one bright spot in all the days of physical pain, tears, and uncertainty was the weekly craft nights. For one hour every week, I got to focus on making an art project rather than dwelling on how much pain I was in, which exercises I needed to do, or an upcoming surgery. Having a chance to put all my energy into something completely outside of myself helped to decrease some of my anxiety. Some of those nights, I dare say I might have even been happy. Due to my enjoyable experiences with art projects in the hospital, I knew I wanted to provide these same opportunities for other kids in the hospital.

Ever since I started teaching art projects to kids in the hospital, I have loved every minute of it. I love seeing the regular kids every week who have finally gotten used to me and will come up and just start talking. I love watching the kids burst with creativity, coming up with an alternative project I hadn’t even considered. I love seeing the smiles on their faces when they finish their project and run to show their parents. I love finding new ways to teach the children. However, more than anything, I love being able to take in all the different lessons they’ve ended up teaching me without even knowing it.

They have taught me the true meaning of strength. They have taught me what it means to not let an illness define you. They’ve taught me how “art” and “perfect” are rarely in the same sentence, and that’s perfectly okay. More than anything, they’ve taught me the importance of noticing the small things. One little girl I know is battling cancer, and yet she is one of the happiest little girls I know. She smiles, she laughs, and she plays. Most importantly, she does one thing I believe we often forget. She notices every moment: every smile, every time of laughter, every speck of blue sky. She absorbs every single piece of life, soaking it all in. I try more and more each day to live like her, but I’ve got a long way to go.

Numerous friends have asked me how I am able to be around kids who are dying. And you know what my response is? “How could I not?” These kids need me. They need the chance to be able to fully express themselves. They need a positive person in their lives who can bring something good into their hospital experience. They need someone who cares. A few years ago, I never imagined that person could be me, and yet, here I am.

I have yet to lose one of the children I teach. The more I read the article written by the woman who teaches poetry and prose to dying children, the more I’ve begun to understand that we all deal with death in our own way. How I react to losing a child I teach may not be the same way one of the child’s nurses might react. That being said, the important thing to remember is even if I lose I child I teach, there are still tons of other children who need me. Though one day may feel quiet as I mourn the loss of a particular child I cared for, there will be more children coming to clinic the following day, and I need to be the best I can be for them. Being sad around them isn’t my job. If I’m sad, they’ll get sad. That’s why positivity is so important.

Teaching art to children with serious illnesses and disabilities is not easy, but it is the first thing I’ve ever done that’s given me a deep sense of purpose. Seeing the smile on a little boy’s face means I was part of his happiness. Having a little girl cling to my leg begging me not to leave warms my heart more than she will ever know. I just hope one day these children will know how much they have changed my life.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.-Plato

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Tuesday’s Tunes: A Closer Look At The Art Of Missing.

29 May

 

Yesterday I listened to this song on repeat for over an hour, letting the lyrics sink in and waiting for the painful memories that I knew would surface in time. That’s the special thing about music. Each song is unique in its power to allow all kinds of memories to rise up, ranging from childhood moments to moments that only lasted a split second in the scheme of your life, yet moments that seemed to have a stronger hold on you than you seem to have on the current life that you’re living.

While listening to this song, I thought of the art of missing. It’s been an idea that has rolled around in my head for the past few days. However, I’ve been unsure as to how to bring life to it through my words. However, putting off writing just because we are stuck is not what true writers do. We move forward, muddling through the words that we know we yearn to say, waiting for the moment when they decide to allow themselves to be seen by someone other than ourselves. Anyway, the art of missing has been on my mind lately. Isn’t it a bit of a funny concept? It’s almost like a hunger for something that can only be satisfied by some kind of contact. Often times, I find myself missing people who I’ve just talked to or just seen. I think that’s probably because I
have had a habit of getting attached to people and then I have always hated any kind of goodbye. Whether it’s goodbye for a few days or a few months or even a year, it’s never any easier. However, by some miraculous twist of fate, we move forward. We place one foot in front of the other, knowing that walking ahead is our only option.

I believe that one of the most heartbreaking aspects of the art of missing is when you miss someone who may not be missing you in return. Not because they have told you that they don’t miss you, but because you no longer have the kind of relationship where it would be okay to ask that kind of question. In that instance, I’m missing someone who I used to know. Though that person is still around, they are not the same person that is etched into my childhood memories so precisely. Maybe, deep down, that person is still there. The person that I put so much trust in and looked up to for so long. The person who taught me to believe in myself and reminded me to never stop smiling. But truthfully, I probably will never know if that person from my memories still exists. That’s the tricky thing about time and the art of missing. Even though people say that distance makes the heart grow fonder, is time factored into that equation? To me, it seems like time is often the polar opposite of distance, causing the heart to ever so slowly forget the faces in one’s mind that were etched there so many years ago.

Through some recent introspection, I’ve realized that missing someone is like a hunger, but in another sense, it’s also like a sickness. A sickness that fills you internally, causing you to stop and wonder if there was ever a time that was spent not missing someone. Even though the art of missing does reflect the strong amount of love that people are able to show to one another, it’s almost as if the love is just never quite enough. The love is present, it has taken your hand. However, instead of simply having it take your hand, you want it to surround you, fill you up…and not leave you standing at a window looking out into a world that you are part of and yet isolated from. Even though missing someone shows that you care about someone and that you love them, it can also pull you under its current, leaving you to wave your hands frantically, waiting for someone to realize that you are, in fact, struggling to simply stay above water.