My friend Jim Hebert was diagnosed with brain cancer in the summer
of 2002. Jim was a brilliant software engineer and a great supporter
of my work as an environmental artist. As soon as he began taking
the drugs that kept him in the full swing of life for the next
3 years, his new wife Ronni began sending me all of the medicine
bottles. In October of 2004 my closest friend Frances Lyn was
diagnosed with an inoperable cancer, which had metastasized to her
brain. Jim lived well and passionately with his cancer for 3 ½ years.
Fran did the same for 2 ½ months.
When invited to do this show, I knew I had a place to open Jim’s
boxes and deal with the contents. In the first box, I found, along
with lots of other bottles, at least 6 bottles of seizure medication.
I had opened a box of courage. When going through my house, looking
for all of the boxes that Jim’s wife Ronni had sent me, I
found a small bag of medicine bottles from Fran. Fran and Jim were
friends, and Jim had been very supportive of Fran through the whirlwind
of her diagnosis and death.
I make this altar out of love for my friends and all they have
given me. Fran died 3 years ago, in February. Jim has been dead
for almost a year and a half. These friends were an important part
of my life, and the memory of their friendship is a vital part of
my life as well. When I think of them, I understand anew--each step
I take, each breath I breathe--I am here, I am alive--I have a job
to do--to live as well and as truthfully as I can, each day, each
hour, each moment.
Several weeks ago, after hearing about the rapid death of the
partner of a childhood friend, another good friend emailed me this, “Bryant,
I am sorry about the loss of your friend. When I was
working at Baptist (Hospital) in a counseling intern capacity, I
met a professional medical person who said, ‘we all have cancers--some
develop and some don't.’ I try to take care of myself
more and more. Who knows?”
To take care of ourselves and to love what we love--these days--that
is all I know. I wrap the courage and love of all my friends around
me like a soft blanket and go out into the world. I read poetry,
which tells me the only answers are those that speak to us through
our hearts. I am grateful for the sustaining love of my friends
and for the mystery of wonder which gathers its strength in the
dark of the night and arrives each day on wings of light.