In the course of bringing art therapy to different children in our hospital, I've had the occasion to also work with mothers. This isn't unusual, I often try to involve as many people as I can in a project. When you've got a family making art together, you have a family making change together.
But lately, it's moms whom I've found the most inspiring. We live in this world, which as I far as I can tell from reading the papers, seems to see people as disposable, their jobs lost to mergers, overseas labor and general sail trimming.
What I love about my job is that I get to see this notion turned on its head. We're a former county hospital and we take whoever comes to us--our patient population is a cloth of many economic stripes.
I've been working with one mother who has a number of children at home and a newborn in the hospital. He's been there several months and since he was born with a number of physical anomalies, he requires 'round the clock care. She's been with him the whole time and fortunately has excellent family support at home.
Initially, I proposed creating picture books for her children at home, so that they could listen to a story that their mom wrote for them and feel her love as they listened.
It hasn't worked out that way. Instead, each time I enter, the mom is standing by the crib being with her baby, adjusting a tube if needed, but really, just getting to know this little soul and loving him.
Art books weren't going to happen. What to do?
Conversations with strangers don't come easily for me, and without art materials as a medium, I initially felt lost. I decided that instead of book making, our art would be the making of conversation and of companionship.
So I've come by each day to visit, learning to be more comfortable with when we're not making anything. I ask a few questions, watch her face light up when we hit upon something that touches her, but mostly, I've just learned about devotion.
I see fatigue on her face, and I'm guessing, she might get more than a little hungry sometimes, but her steady presence strikes me as one of the most powerful examples of love that I've ever seen.
This Valentine's Day, I recognize all kinds of love, but in particular, I want to celebrate the love of mothers for their children; the strongest bond of all.