A flash of light so bright it jolted me out of my bed, and less than a second later, the ground shook like a mega missile had struck. I remember counting seconds from the flash of light to the sound of thunder. This one was so close it had to be one of the old oaks on the property of this old Texas farmhouse.
A pounding like the sound of a waterfall is amplified on the old tin roof above this porch, which goes the distance of the house in the front and the back. It was always my dream to live in a house with a tin roof and a big long porch, so I could sit dry and safe in a storm.
In the sky, the sound of thunder is like continual flights overhead, and the dim gray clouds mute the light so all the trees are evenly lit with a soft glow. Though wildflowers are still in bloom around the area, there are none here, and I’m hopeful this storm will feed the bags of wildflower seeds I scattered across the property weeks ago.
A Sad Call
Soon after I awoke this morning, my dad phoned and started the call with, “I’ve got some sad news.” That’s never good, and indeed an old family friend, Gladys Gorman, had passed. I knew she was sick and I had failed to visit her in a hospital nearby in San Antonio, knowing she was in a coma at the time. I’m regretting it now.
The last time I recall seeing her was at the funeral of my all-time best friend, Charlie Willer, probably more than 12 or 14 years ago.
Full of Life
I first met Gladys over 40 years ago, when she came to work for my dad. And though she was probably only there for five or 10 years, she was in our lives forever, because she was the kind of person you wanted to be around. Full of life, full of positive reinforcement, and overflowing with joy.
Sacrifices for Others
Gladys was a living example of living on the cause side of life, which I talked about last week. I don’t know anything about her upbringing, but when I first met her, she was raising three daughters as a single mom, making sacrifices to make sure they grew up in a nice house in a good school district, which had to be a stretch for her.
She made her living as a housekeeper and a cook, but she always had something on the side. I remember her having a booth at the local antique mall, selling something she had made. She was an entrepreneur and filled with ideas, most of which she pursued. She was always taking classes to better herself, listening to tapes (she asked to borrow many of the tapes I would buy to educate myself), and she was always getting certified in different things so she could make more income. Most important to her was an education for her kids.
Three Amazing Daughters
The best testament to her drive and positive attitude was that she raised three amazing daughters — one is an MD, another is also a doctor, a psychiatrist, and the third is a thriving artist. A single mom, making a living as a housekeeper, putting three girls though college. And they all turned out to be really quality people who deeply care about others.
I had a lot of time with Gladys over a few years, and I always looked forward to being with her. I can remember thinking, “I hope I see Gladys today.” I think it’s because she always made me feel so good about myself.
A Bright Spot
Gladys lived as a bright spot. To everyone she touched, she was the bright spot of their day. She projected joy, she was deeply interested in other people, and she would always make you feel good about yourself.
I cannot imagine the hard times she had and the sacrifices she made being a single mom, working odd jobs, and still managing to get those girls the best possible education. Yet I never once saw her down, never once heard her complain about her circumstances, never once saw her play the victim. In fact, she always talked about how much she felt God had blessed her.
I Want to Be Like Her
Her passing reminds me of what I want to be. And I wanted to honor her today by telling you about her, so that her light will shine on through those of us who want to live as she did … a bright light that fills the room with joy.
Do people look forward to being around you, or do they run the other way?
Do you lift others up, or do you tear them down?
Do you share or whine too much about your circumstances, or do you accept them, embrace them for what they are, and focus on being joy-filled?
I can’t say I’ve lived up to the high bar that Gladys lived, but in her honor, I’m going to try harder.
PS: My gut told me that I needed to go see Gladys, but I allowed busy to get in my way. Follow your gut.
Today, Palm Sunday, is a special day for many of us, and next week, Easter, is even more special. I hope you’ll find a way to gather with family next week to celebrate together. Right after Easter, my family of plein air painters will gather for a week to celebrate our craft. This past week I ran into three people who told me they were still trying to figure out how to go. I hope they do — a family gathering without all the family members isn’t as special. I’d be honored if you join that gathering. We can always find room for another seat at the table.
Eric, so sorry for your lose of Gladys, but she is still with you and doesn’t want you to regret. I do not know if people are glad to see me. I do try to lift people up. But I fear I am a whinner. I am so disappointed that things have changed and I am not outdoors with my fellow artists. I keep looking for the day I can return to it. The nurses like me. I did a sketch for one and she actually went down to the gift shop and bought me a beautiful cross that I look at every day. I am the queen of regrets. But I have to remind myself to live for today.
Love your writings Eric. You always make me think. I shall paint today.
I want to express my appreciation for your “Morning Coffee” messages each Sunday. I find at times your thoughts are oddly in sync with my own. It’s nice. Some times your stories are insightful, and of course, sometimes I totally cannot relate. No two journeys through life are the same; that’s what makes it great.
So, this morning after reading my e-mails and your Sunday Morning Coffee thoughts, I am writing you to say thank you for the insightful and positive stories of your journey through the art world, and I am writing to the art opportunity to say thank you for their consideration and to wish them luck going forward. Just another Sunday.
I just love your Sunday morning coffee. I have never painted plain air. I am a want to be artist. I am 76 years old. I have been painting pictures for about fifteen years.. my husband andi did craft fairs in the bay area for 20 while also being mail carriers. He cut everything out of wood and I painted it. I did not know how to do that until I took tole painting classes. I just wanted to say how much you talk to me on Sunday and how much you inspire me. You are a man with so much inter wisdom. I am so sorry for your loss of your friend. I just wanted to tell you how I appreciate your writing. Thank you
So sorry about your friend Eric. Our instincts are so much stronger than we give them credit for, in life, or on the canvas. It’s a “whole life” state of being. Instinctual. As a busy full time artists, for me, it’s easy to get mired in what’s going on with me. This vocation can be so unpredictable, tedious, and fantastic, it presents a roller coaster ride I want to throw my hands up and scream on in joy, frustration and all the dips, rolls and loops it sends me through. Thanks for the reminder that it’s not about me. Gladys lived the way I aspire to live but sometimes I get pulled into the ride. I look too much at the dotted line down the road and not enough at who and what line that street to make it so wonderful.