What we leave behind
print by Kurt Stocker
I haven’t mentioned it publicly, but we have been dealing with very heavy things as a family. When my husband and I moved to New Mexico from Seattle, Washington, back in 2020, we had visions in our head of how things would be. Being nearer to family, we would all gather together for a big meal once a week. We could spend time together at each other’s houses, instead of traveling long distances by plane to be able to see each other once a year. The pandemic and early lockdown had made Peter and I evaluate what we wanted to do with our day to day life, and where we wanted to do it. New Mexico seemed like the perfect answer. Its a beautiful place, a bit closer to my extended family in North Carolina, but close to Peter’s sister (who has been like a sister to me, as well as my best friend, for almost 30 years).
Soon after we decided to pull up stakes and move to New Mexico in Summer 2020, Peter’s mother had a bad fall that left her with a traumatic brain injury that she never was able to recover from. She loved New Mexico, and she would have loved our house, and was so very excited that we were moving here. Before we even settled here, Kathleen was requiring round the clock care, both in hospitals and at home. We were never 100% sure she even understood we were living here. She passed away on New Years Day of 2021.
Soon after, Peter’s Dad, the patriarch of the family, went into the hospital with an infection that required heart valve replacement surgery. Three valves that had been affected were replaced, and we never expected him to not recover. This man had gone skydiving only 2 years before this incident. But after almost a full year of trying to regain his health, he, too, never recovered. He passed away only a few weeks ago after a long hard fight.
The hole these events have left in our lives is immeasurable.
Murder At Midnight- Artist Proof by Kurt Stocker
Peter’s dad was an artist- a printmaker, a painter. Always very creative, but later in his life he really had the time to embrace his artistic side. He had a true curiosity and a passion for it. I loved talking to him about living a creative life. We both loved the color “Paynes Gray”. Now that he is no longer with us (which is still so hard to even believe) his art holds a different sentiment. He was very giving with his art and we all have several pieces. As a result, there are bits of him everywhere. His humor is reflected in his art (the print “Cawfee” of the crow with his beak in a coffee cup always made me chuckle). I look at a piece and just imagine that being a good day for him- being up in his studio, creating the physical piece of an idea he had in his mind’s eye. He passed his love of printmaking down to his daughter. (I am very lucky to have creative family all around me.)
He has left behind his art that will adorn our walls. It will make us smile, we’ll remember him fondly when someone asks about a piece on our wall. If we creative people ever doubt that what we do has any impact on the world around us, let me tell you now.
Windy City was a painting of what Kurt saw outside his office window in Chicago, Illinois.
It hangs in our dining room near one that his mother did of what was outside her New York City office window
when she worked as a fashion illustrator.
Peter’s mother tried her hand at making things for us, and has left behind such special things as her carefully curated photo albums. I will treasure the leather medicine pouch she made me many years ago. Honestly, her best gift to us was the gift of making a secure home and a good family. She had such a wonderful way of encouraging us all to pursue our creative passions.
What we leave behind is important. And I’m not talking about the stuff left behind. But more the things and “stuff” that you chose to spend time on throughout your life. You leave behind a bit of yourself in these things, and when you’re gone, it’s what your loved ones will have to cherish. A bit of a day, or days, you spent living. Being the person you were. The colors you chose for something you made. The composition you studied and worked on. The many stitches you made. At present you may feel these things are insignificant. But I am here to tell you what I’ve experienced firsthand- in an instant, the value of those simple pieces (quilts, paintings, prints, crafts…) suddenly and completely change. Not monetary value. But the intrinsic, sentimental value they have to people that loved you.
A glimpse of one of Kurt’s pieces on our wall can flood me with memory and love. I am so happy we have these bits of him left behind.
I have not mentioned this publicly because I felt that this was not my story to tell. As much as I loved them, I felt that the family needed to face inward. But today, as I was drinking my morning coffee and looking out at the fresh snow, I felt compelled to write. If for no other reason that to remind us all to make the art, sew the quilts, make all the things. Your loved ones will treasure these remnants of you in their lives for many years.
We love you Kurt and Kathleen.