Monday, December 12, 2005
“Healing Steps: Jamie’s Journey”
Excerpts from a Caretaker’s JournalPhoto-Assemblages and Writings by Don Fear
Signs, symbols, and objects—what do they mean to us?
Objects given and received, gifts. Gifts given from the heart, when illness hits, often take on a different meaning than what a simple object may be able to convey. A crystal with healing powers, a handmade angel for the Christmas tree, a figure of Yoda—all take on a different meaning, one of importance. They become more than just objects; they become symbols of hope and connections to another world, the spiritual world. These objects, minute as they may be, are gifts of hope and most of all love. Cards by the hundreds, best wishes for recovery and good health from loved ones and friends. Objects of paper, maybe, but they are much more. They become connections with loved ones who are near and far away. They hold us together when we are apart.The importance of these objects has become more evident since my wife’s diagnosis. A lot of things have become clearer. Jamie and I are realizing how deeply we are connected. Our spirits are together forever, the untouchable and the unseen.One day she said to me, “We need to document the many gifts that people have sent.” The connection was already there, made without being spoken. I had been doing exactly that. Over the previous days, I had been scanning the objects we had received. Objects often disappear and quite frequently get covered up by other important things. Jamie and I had been on the same wavelength. For some unknown reason during her three surgeries, I had been collecting bits and pieces of discarded medical items, packages from tubing, latex gloves, hospital ID bracelets, and any other items that I could scavenge. I don’t really know why I had collected these things. It was as if I were driven to collecting anything I could hold on to that had a connection to her. A friend of mine whose wife also has cancer revealed to me that he had also had the same urge but didn’t know why and had stolen a pair of examining gloves. I said to Jamie, “You are not going to believe this” and then walked down to my studio to get some of the images that I had made. When I showed them to her, a tear appeared in her eye. I reached out and we just held each other.This was the beginning of my documentation of our healing process—photo assemblages and writings of things, places, dreams, and memories that we have shared since her diagnosis of a rare cancer, mucinous cystadenocarcinoma. Some of the objects in the images live on the windowsill of our guestroom, overlooking an area of woods. It is a great window to study the change of seasons. Jamie looks out over these woods, accompanied by the many objects she has received; among them are her favorites, the butterflies, which have become her symbol of healing and a visualization tool. Her collection includes several pins, magnets, and a large wooden butterfly from Bali that dangles from the ceiling, a gift from her older sister.As she stands there looking and touching each one, I can’t help but think that at times, a lot of times, she might just want to become a butterfly and lightly and effortlessly take off and leave her body, if only for an afternoon of cruising the woods that she so loves. The image of the butterfly allows her the opportunity to leave her body and enter that place in her mind that says anything is possible. Producing this work allows me to clarify both my own existence and what Jamie means to me.