Thursday, November 18, 2010

What You Bring Forth

What You Bring Forth, ©1999, H. Hunter, Mixed Media
"Honey, why is it that your memory is so good about unpleasant topics?" my husband asked me this morning. He was speaking about our upcoming biweekly housecleaning, but I think that my habit could be an occupational hazard, the cost of doing business so to speak.

This week however, began with a very pleasant ending, the last meeting of our 8 week Young Adult Bereavement Art Group. I've come to love the kids in the group. Although I stop short of wanting to adopt them all, in the process of following their stories I came to care for them immensely.

My co-facilitator and I sat at the table with group members as they worked on their last project; a memory box. He had inherited a file cabinet filled with wooden boxes similar to a cigar box and they seemed to suggest the perfect container for memories. I was thinking of the traditional art therapy "inside/outside box" where you can put the feelings you share with others on the outside of the box and the feelings you hold close to yourself on the inside. I also thought the boxes could become altars, or, simply a decorated box in which they could place objects reminding them of their loved ones.

Of course the kids surprised me with their own ideas-blew me out of the water in fact. As I sat there observing them, an idea occurred to me: I could take my i-phone and shoot process pictures. I had all their consent forms and if I shot below their faces I could capture some of the magic that was taking place in front of me.

I made my rounds about the table and and saw a confluence of images that I could not have anticipated. One young woman had written "wash away 2010" Another had a found a picture of a heart formed by the thumbs and forefingers of two hands coming together (try that yourself!). Yet another person had glued the traditional "corners" used to hold photographs in an album, back in the days when you would glue these tiny corners in an album and hope that you'd done it right so you could easily slip in the photograph.

I wondered whether this young man would be adding any of his photographs that he'd found of his mother. This would be progress indeed because several weeks before he told us he had them in a box, but could not look at them.

As our time together ended, we went around the table, each sharing a word that expressed our feeling of the moment. I heard words like "blessed",  "understood" and "comforted"--and when they left, they asked us about the reunion in the spring. Unthinkable that two years ago at this time, we were putting together figures and ideas, hoping to get a grant. Today, I am immensely grateful for these young people who have shared their lives with us and for the support of our hospital and hospice, the UC Davis Children's Hospital and the UC Davis Hospice.


  1. Oh Hannah, how wonderful...the give and take of these relationships is so pure and compassionate...healing for the children...healing for the facilitators. Just beautiful. I'm so grateful that there are people like you in the world doing so much to create sacred healing spaces.

  2. Beautiful!! All I can say is that these Kids are lucky to have a person like you to take care of them :)
    I am very intrigued to see the outside of the Box u posted in this post :))

  3. Thank you Laura and Joyita--when I read your blogs and your efforts to lighten the weight of the world--I feel inspired--which gets rolled back into my work with these folks...

    You know Joyita--I thought about taking a shot of the box front--but I think it needs a bit of updating first. Stay tuned!

  4. Lovely art at top. The story of your experience is very moving to say the least, Hannah. I know your work brings you both joys and sadness. I admire you for what you do.

  5. Thank you my dear! I think that if I didn't do this,there would be a big something missing in my life. There is so much gold in the what seems like the rock of grief.

  6. A beautiful conclusion to your group's meetings. It sounds like the healing has started working for everybody involved. (These boxes are called "yay" chests in New Orleans.)

  7. It was indeed--we took the pictures from that night and are turning it into a short video--a new step for me!

  8. Beautiful post Hannah! Thank you for sharing your experiences here. It just warmed my heart to read about their desire for a reunion. I can't wait to see the video. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and spend some time taking care of "you"!