The Art Studio

“I find inspiration for my works of art in my studio and in the squared circle from all sorts of places.” Jeff Hardy


The Perfect Home

After eight years of marriage, my loved one had become too sick to work, so we decided to follow my career instead of his. This necessitated moving from the West Coast to the Northeast, where we immediately began searching for a home with enough room to house an art studio.



After several months of looking, we found the perfect home with a large basement.



Even though the basement contained our washer and dryer, it was 1100 square feet and had great potential. It was quickly converted into a studio with all the necessary accouterment.

Within Months, the Transformation Happened

The space had a steel rolling tool cabinet that held his oil paints and brushes. It also had a comfortable couch, a small refrigerator, and custom cabinetry to house his digital prints. One side of the Studio had wall-to-wall bins to house the large oil paintings. But the space was incomplete without two of my loved one’s prize possessions: his artist’s easel and large-format printer. As the years passed, the basement was no longer the basement. Now, it was the Studio.



 My loved one spent many happy days in his Studio, music on, designing, and creating his next masterpiece. Because of his efforts, we were the recipients of beautiful art pieces throughout our home. On occasion, he had a showing at a gallery. This would mean weeks of preparation in the Studio, but it was incredible to be a part of.  


Years passed, and his illness progressed. Click To Tweet

Time Passed, and Things Changed

However, as the years passed and his illness progressed, his physical limitations became apparent. It was slow at first and hard to watch as it impacted many of the things he loved to do. At first, it was his stamina, how long he could stand and paint a large canvas. Then came the adjustments to what he could do around the house – the regular things like taking out the trash, helping around the lawn, stacking wood, and snow removal.


As time passed, the size of canvasses became smaller (still quite large but smaller than he would have liked.) Even though I can’t say I understood what he was going through, I was a witness. I found that watching a loved one’s life become smaller and seeing how his illness ravaged his body was not only painful but also left me with images and memories that I wish I didn’t have.   


(A couple of years before his death, he was on oxygen and teaching his granddaughter to paint).

His Illness Took Over

It’s funny that when I think back at the last ten years of his life, the image that comes to mind is him sitting in his chair with his computer on his lap. He would spend hours documenting his thoughts on what that next piece of art should be. His eyebrows would furl as he toiled over how he wanted the composition of that next piece of art to be.


For the last three years of his life, he was on oxygen and tethered to a 50-foot hose. This limited where he could go in our home and caused endless frustration. As it became harder for him to be in his Studio, changes were made to ensure his continued ability to create. 


The Final Oil Painting

Several friends relocated his Studio into our library to give him the necessary creative access. I remember the last year of his life as he struggled to complete his final oil painting.

I remember the last year of his life as he struggled to complete his final oil painting. Click To Tweet


I would come home and see the progress every day until it was done. This painting became one of my favorites because of the composition, tenacity, and will to finish it. I cherish this painting. 



And the basement was BACK!

After his death, my friends returned to move everything back to the Studio. Being thoughtful, they asked for directions as to where things belonged. However, I was in no shape to think about the task at hand. So I told them to put it anywhere. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the first time I went downstairs, I found everything was dropped into the middle of the room. All it took was one week after he died for the Studio to no longer be a studio. Now, it was just a plain old-fashioned basement, and the only reason to venture into it was to use the washer and dryer. 


Months passed, and I avoided setting foot into the basement. Going there meant walking around the unfinished canvas sitting on the easel in the middle of the room. There were papers and books on the couch, his paints and tool chests in disarray. Every time I went downstairs, my heart would break a little bit more.

The Assessment

I remember summoning the courage to go downstairs as if it was yesterday. I needed to assess what had to be done and couldn’t avoid it any longer. It took me ten months after he passed away to set the goal of transforming the basement back into a studio.




It didn’t matter that he would no longer be using his brushes and printer or creating beautiful works of art.



What mattered on this long-ago day was that I wanted to honor his memory by putting everything back in its place. It didn’t matter that he was no longer with me. Doing this would make me feel better about setting foot into this part of my home.

The Beloved Artist

Eventually, I hoped that I would be able to sit on the studio couch and share memories with my family and friends of the man I loved, who was an artist. 


Fast forward several years after the loss of my loved one, and I was looking forward to having a party at my home.


I invited some old and new friends to spend time with me. As my new friends arrived, I found they were enthralled with the large and bright art pieces on the walls.



That night, I was the docent and curator of his art. As we walked around, I could show my friends the various pieces of his artwork. The tour would end in the Studio as they glanced at the 100-plus oil paintings. That night, I was reminded of how vital the Studio was in our home. This space had brought both of us years of happiness.

The Perfect Timing

  “Life teaches you that you need to make decisions in the right time – not too early, not too late.” Jeb Bush

 And It Began

Through the years, I have heard that “timing is everything.” And at the age of thirty-eight, I finally figured out what I wanted in my personal life. But more important was who I would share it with. So when my loved one asked me to marry him, I said yes.

I was excited about the possibility of a different life filled with love, companionship, and support. Click To Tweet

Growing up in the sixties, being a single mom, I became an assertive, independent woman. However, this did not prepare me for being married. I was apprehensive about what being married meant. It seems that we did not have a clue about what the day-to-day expectations and responsibilities were, so after the wedding, we found ourselves “winging” it.

So merging our families, we each gravitated to roles that fit our personalities. However, the tasks and our roles needed to be adjusted as time passed. After floundering for a little while, we assessed our strengths. We came up with a division of tasks/labor that worked for us. We took a deeper look and now considered that I worked in insurance, was good with numbers, and was analytical. At the same time, he was a graphic designer and an artist with excellent artistic sensibilities.

Finding the Strengths

Due to his illness and inability to work, the timing was right to start following my career. We each made sacrifices as my career necessitated cross-country moves and frequent travel. Not having a traditional marriage, we embraced our strengths. My strengths included good analytical skills, the ability to make decisions quickly, and lastly, I was good with our finances. Well, I was better than the artist was.

Through the years, our primary roles stayed the same. But as his illness progressed, we had to modify our day-to-day tasks. His limitations prevented him from doing many of them, so my responsibilities increased.


However, after his death, I struggled to find my way with my newfound reality. My expectation was that I could handle everything and anything that came up, knowing it could be done under normal circumstances. But the truth was this was not my everyday life. The grief I was living through kept me overwhelmed, tired, angry, forgetful, and, worse of all, indecisive. I couldn’t concentrate long enough to analyze the pros and cons of any situation.

Is it Time for a Change?

So three months after my loved one passed, one of my elderly aunts called. She asked me if I would continue to stay in my home. This train of thought hadn’t even entered my mind. I was too overwhelmed with my everyday life to consider such a change. But as she spoke, she stated that they had discussed my situation. They feared I was too far from my neighbors and the grocery stores. That the weather was awful in the winter and that the house required too much upkeep for a woman who was all alone.

As I asked a couple of questions and it became clear that the “they” were three of my favorite aunts (all widows). They concluded that I shouldn’t live in my home due to its location and no familial support. At that point, the conversation veered to how much she loved me and only thought of my well-being.

After the conversation, I realized that moving, as an option, had not even been a consideration. I was painfully aware that I couldn’t even decide on the small things before me.

The thought of moving was too complicated to consider. Click To Tweet


But what this conversation did was show me the reality of my situation. I did live in the country, in New England. There was occasional terrible weather, and I was far from a grocery store or any store for that matter. I  was alone. But this was not my whole truth.

Twelve Years of Memories

I began thinking about what initially drew me to the house and what kept me there. The house was in the country on three and a half beautiful wooded acres that were magnificent year-round, especially in the fall. On top of the beauty, I was surrounded by the wildlife that crossed my property and gave me a deep sense of peace.


This lovely house was filled with twelve years of memories. Click To Tweet


These twelve years of memories were the ones that I shared with my love. Even though I physically lived alone, I knew I was not alone. My friends provided all the support that I seemed to need. At the time, I was still young and strong enough to take care of the upkeep, and this WAS my truth.

I knew that moving was not a decision I would make any time soon because of my day-to-day struggles. I needed to wait for more healing and listen to that inner voice telling me it was OK to do so. After my loved one’s death, I promised myself I wouldn’t make any life-altering decisions for a year. This would include potentially selling my home or moving to another state. My life experiences have taught me that as time passes, more will be revealed. Whatever decisions must be made, I will make them as I’m ready.

My Future

So on that long ago day, three months after my loved one died, I sat and focused on what was in front of me:

  • A home I loved.
  • A place where I felt safe.
  • The peaceful woods surrounding my lovely home.

However, I knew there would be another conversation at another time. When that time happened, I would be willing to look at possible options for moving to another place and home. And when I did consider a change, the moment would be right, and the timing would be perfect.


Grief and the Anniversary Party

“Whatever life we have experienced, if we can tell our story to someone who listens, we find it easier to deal with our circumstances.” Margaret J. Wheatley


Shortly after my loved one passed, one of my closest friends was to celebrate her thirtieth recovery anniversary. Before my husband’s death, I had been looking forward to seeing her celebrate this milestone surrounded by her family and friends, but now I was struggling.  


As the day approached, part of me looked forward to catching up with friends. However, as the thoughts entered my head as to why I would be there without my loved one, my grief seemed to intensify, and I went from feeling heartbreak to inconsolable sadness. 

I went from feeling heartbreak to inconsolable sadness. Click To Tweet


 Making the Journey

Since his death, I retreated to my home and isolated myself from others. I knew I needed to get out of myself, so I considered making the journey. For the last several years, I had been so wrapped up in myself that I genuinely wanted to be there for her. She had spent countless hours talking to and supporting me through my loved one’s long illness, hospital stays, and eventual death.  

 So, I made plans to stay with some friends, bought an airline ticket, rented a car, and was ready to be a part of this beautiful anniversary. I was anxious on the day of my flight and couldn’t wait to get there as I knew a special hug was awaiting me. 


This party was the first get-together since my loved one passed, and I felt that attending the event would help me feel connected again.


I can’t say that I had been looking forward to the party, but as my special friend could not be at his funeral, I yearned to feel the love and acceptance that only a close friend can provide. 

 I arrived in Orlando at 5:00 p.m., picked up my luggage, and rushed to get the rental car. The goal was to beat the rush hour traffic, so I could promptly get to the pre-anniversary event. It had been arranged that several people that knew her well would share, and I wanted to hear what they had to say. 

 A Shoulder to Cry On

When I arrived, I searched for her, and as I entered the room, I saw her looking at me. She had saved a seat next to her, and I instantly started to cry.

We hugged, and she said a few words of comfort. I laid my head on her shoulder as the tears swept over me. The intimacy of this moment and our relationship was apparent to anyone watching.

 I had been friends with this woman for twenty-five years. The long-term relationship fostered trust, honesty, and plenty of love. Through the years, I had shared my pain, joy, loneliness, and deepest secrets with her, so it only made sense that being around her, I felt an intense bond that I hadn’t felt since before my loved one’s death.  

 It had been forty-five days since my loved one passed, and I started to feel better because I was surrounded by many long-time friends whom I consider family. During the evening, I was able to spend a little time with my close friend, but our quality time would come during the following few days.  

 The Waves Were Calling Me to Sleep

As the evening ended, I found myself experiencing some reprieve from my grief. We made our way to the hotel, and I finished my day listening to the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, finding a little peace as I dozed off to sleep.

The following morning we got up early, took a walk, and had a lovely breakfast, killing time waiting for the celebration to begin. I tried to focus on why I had come all this way but couldn’t sustain the thoughts of celebration for very long. My grief drowned the symphony that the ocean waves provided, and thank goodness that before I knew it, it was time to go to the event. 

My grief drowned the symphony that the ocean waves provided Click To Tweet

And Now Time for the Party

As I walked into the venue, I saw many old friends. These friends were attentive and allowed me to share a little of my grief. A few of them joined me in shedding some tears. 

With others, I could see them grapple with what to say to a new widow and truly appreciated their attempts knowing that nothing would change how I felt.


The festivities began with serving food, allowing people to eat, mingle and share stories. That was preceded by a video of photographs depicting moments in her life with many people who had gathered in the banquet room. Afterward, people began giving toasts and sharing how much it meant to them to be there for her thirtieth recovery anniversary.  

I sat with friends and listened to the testimonials knowing how blessed I was to have someone so caring and loving in my life. I felt terrible for not sharing a lovely story. But I was overwhelmed with my grief and afraid I would ruin this occasion, so I didn’t say a word.


Knowing I was overwhelmed with my loss, the celebrant hugged me and whispered a few words.


I don’t remember the specifics, but she managed to make time during her party, which allowed me to feel a deeper connection to her on her special day.  

 As my trip ended, I was immensely grateful to have made this journey which allowed me to be a part of the celebration and to share my tears, hugs, grief, and love for my special friend.