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  • Reverend James Squire


Updated: Feb 12, 2021

Photo by Adrian Valeanu

One of the questions that is asked in Ethics Classes is: if you had to give up your sight, your hearing, or your ability to walk, which would you choose and why. Different people choose different things and the answers can reveal a great deal about what people value and why. As I write this, Audrey, a dear friend of our family who is our neighbor on the Chesapeake, is in her final moments of life on earth. She is an artist who works in oil and water color.

I have listened to Audrey over the years talk about color, shadows, landscapes, portraits of people and places, still life(s), and many other aspects that inhabit the world of what artists need to know about. She always sent out sketches at Christmas of various homes and places that had special meaning to her family.

We have in our home two of her paintings. One painting is of my daughter, Joanna, who died in 1978 of leukemia, which Audrey painted from a favorite picture of ours. The painting is perfect. Audrey also managed to capture Joanna’s outgoing spirit. The other painting she did is of our home of over thirty years on the Episcopal Academy campus in Merion. Some may remember that the home had an enclosed front porch with many panes of class. Audrey painted every detail including the panes of glass. She must have used a brush with few bristles to accomplish that feat.

A special experience was to walk through the Philadelphia Museum of Art with Audrey and have her comment on aspects of the paintings. She would analyze a painting and would point out things that I didn’t have the artist’s eye to see. There is no doubt in my mind that the one sense she would not choose to lose is her vision. Audrey became blind about a decade ago. The universe is not forgiving. It sometimes takes what we value most. Two of my former students who were great athletes are now in wheel chairs.

One of the things that could not be taken from Audrey was her spirit seen in her paintings but more importantly in her life. I never heard a single word of complaint from her about her plight and the hand that she was dealt. Especially difficult to comprehend is that two of her grandchildren preceded her in death. I regret that I never raised the question of how she was making her way through life with her blindness, her other medical challenges, and the loss of her grandchildren.

I think that during the recent phone calls Vicki and I made to her I found the answer. She had suffered several mini strokes in the last week, but always asked how we were doing even with garbled speech. She asked how our children were doing as well. She would reluctantly give us the medical report but would quickly add, “How are you?” If anyone deserved to voice a complaint or to have the focus be on herself in that moment, it would be then for she knew the end was near and was in hospice.

But there it was. The secret for Audrey. It was always “we” never “me”!

Maybe there is truth in that statement that “Art imitates life.” For Audrey her life imitated the spirt of her art.

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