It's funny, remember when you had just gotten married and people would ask when you were going to have a kid? Or you had just had a baby and they would ask you if you were going to have more?
Well when your husband dies, people can't help but ask, "Do you think you will get married again?"
And of course you shake your head and you think that person is crazy. But after a while the loneliness settles in and the question isn't so abhorrent anymore.
And you realize that our time on this earth should be a life full of love.
When discussing with my friend whether or not she should continue to date somebody the question that was most important to me was:
"Is there magic?"
Because I had that in my marriage. And that is what I would expect if I ever decided to marry again. My Love has set the bar high!
I have been finding that lately I am pleased just to survive. But it shouldn't be that way.
I believe we all should have magic in our lives.
But we need to feel like we are worthy of it or else we won't ever be able to accept it. I have decided to set my standards higher in all areas of my life. And you should too.
So I painted this cloudscape with gold letters to remind me:
"I am worthy of magic."
We all are.
I am sorry this letter is titled to the "Young Widow." I know how much that word disgusts you. How your stomach drops, you feel sand in your mouth, and how you automatically reject the title.
Widow is not who you are.
Why would anyone ever want to be called that? That is the box you check on government forms. It is how you describe a character in a movie. It's that sweet old lady from church that spent 65 years with the love of her life. And even then their marriage was cut too short.
Your mother drove you home from the hospital and you said out loud in your trance: "I am 29."
And then you silently thought: "I am alone. I am 29 and my life has ended." You wouldn't say that out loud right now. You screamed your nonsense over his dead body. You are aware enough now that saying that would hurt their feelings or would leave them to protest it isn't so.
And you don't want to argue right now.
Everything you thought was forever is now gone.
Widow: Old English "widewe," from an Indo-European root meaning ‘be empty,' compare with Sanskrit vidh ‘be destitute,’
--> Destitute: without the basic necessities of life
And you realize: why yes, perhaps I am a widow.
You feel empty. You feel like the basic necessity of your life has been ripped from you. It was his smile that filled your heart. You didn't realize that during this time called marriage you actually had become one. How hackneyed it sounds. How corny. But when they are gone you realize that you really were one. You know everything about them. You know what they will say, their secrets. how their heart beats, what their face feels like, and what they smell like. You know more than maybe they even knew about themselves.
You realize all that time you thought you were two radically different people that loved each other with no rhyme or reason--you were wrong. You were actually paired together by God to complement each other and complete each other.
And now he is gone.
But let me tell you how you will transform because of this.
Your husband's beautiful spirit will create a gaping hole that can never be filled. But you will start to see from the first second how friends, family, and strangers step forward and cast a string over that hole. There will be so many people that throw their string over it that soon only little cracks will be open for light to shine through.
And while they never will cover that empty space and especially not fill the hole---you will see so much good come from everyone.
When a tragedy strikes of course you will feel sorrow, but how could you not see the blinding light of goodness that shines from everyone? Your friends that plan the funeral in a week, your friend that drives all night from states away to be at your side, and your family that loves on your children while you choose his casket.
Your community will gather around you and lift you up in prayer. If you let them they will feed you, they will support you, and they will give you so much (emotionally, spiritually, physically) that you are left speechless.
In your darkness, you will see so much beauty.
God has created contrast in your life like you never had before. All you had to compare the good and the bad to was point A and point B. But now you know it goes so much deeper.
You know what point Z is.
Point Z is the guttural cry, the kind that takes your breath, the kind that you wish takes your breath. Point Z is your body thrown over his as they call the time of death. Point Z is when you walk out of the hospital room in a trance and curl up in ball in the walkway to the visitors' lobby. Point Z is telling your 7 year old and 4 year old they will never see their father in his body again. Point Z is realizing all the things you never said to him. Point Z is sobbing in your bed alone knowing the only person that could hold you and make you feel better is gone. Point Z is realizing half of your heart is gone and yet you can still go on--in fact, you must go on.
One of the most beautiful things I heard was that in heaven there is a constant state of joy and peace. Whereas on Earth there is contrast. Here we experience light and darkness.
The beauty is knowing the depth and being able to compare.
Because once you have seen darkness, you can see light so clearly.
For me it opened my eyes. I could see tiny miracles that no one could quite believe until they were with me and experienced it themselves.
Hummingbirds were magnetically attracted to me. Whereas before I had never seen a hummingbird by my house, they now flocked to our feeder (a gift given to us by a friend after he passed). Hummingbirds would literally sit with me while I sat outside. Butterflies appeared out of nowhere and circled the kids and me like out of a fairytale. Colorful birds I had never seen before in red, blue, and yellow would sit on my fence and sing to me like I was flipping Cinderella. Rainbows appeared, songs that were special to my husband and me would magically play. White feathers literally rained from the sky one day. God was all around me and I could feel his light and love like I never had before. I could feel my husband around me. You know that feeling--the one that tells you you are home.
My heart was broken, but I could not for a moment deny or ignore the beauty that permeated my life.
God is everywhere. He is in nature and in the hearts of people that surround me.
I know that my husband is with God in heaven. I know he is at peace and full of bliss. I know that through God my husband sends me signs of his love EVERY SINGLE DAY.
I don't like what has happened, but I can appreciate the new eyes I have been given and the depth of my heart. I am thankful for the time I had with my husband, the children we have, and how our love has changed me.
I know God will take care of me all I have to do is trust.
I promise He will take care of you too.
(from the depths of my heart)
More Posts about being a Widow:
(Posts are sequential oldest to newest)
If you follow my Instagram or Facebook you might know that my husband passed away.
I am 29.
My husband died four days after his 35th birthday.
Matt was born with a heart defect and at 9 months old they operated on him. It was a success. But he grew up with a weaker heart than most. He knew one day he would need open heart surgery to replace a valve and to repair the other.
As we prepared for this surgery none of us worried—except him. This kind of surgery is something they do for 70 year olds, not an otherwise healthy 35 year old. And even then a valve replacement and aortic repair only had a 10% mortality rate.
He felt an impending doom that made me sigh and wonder if he was being a tad dramatic. Because considering how sick his heart was, he was a vision of health. The weeks before he looked the way you do when you have a cold. Exhausted and depleted. But there was still pink in his cheeks. A sparkle in his eyes. A teasing tone to his voice.
An extremely simple explanation of what happened is his heart failed before we got the surgery.
The heart stopped doing its job, thus making his vital organs sick, and in turn making his heart fail. Causing him to die.
Just four days after I took him to the ER because he looked like crap. Just two weeks before the heart surgery that would have fixed it all.
And the only way I can move on is to know that this was God's plan. That's why Matt didn't get better when thousands of people all over the world prayed. When it comes down to it God could have answered one prayer--my prayer. But he couldn't because this was part of his divine plan. I don't know how it will unfold and sometimes I really don't like it. But until I do understand, I will continue to have faith.
Fast forward one month later. (Because I can’t handle traveling back in time to write how I felt right now).
I was urged by my family to turn one of our bedrooms into an art studio. It is made to be an office. It is the only room with high ceilings, a built in window seat, and pretty glass French doors. We had been using it as a bedroom for one of the kids, but ever since he passed they can't seem to sleep alone. So bunk beds were built and this room was empty...
I struggled between two conflicting emotions:
The first was the need to change everything so I didn’t hurt every time I thought of the way it used to be.
The second was to keep it all the same, to preserve and hold on to the memories.
You see, he always complained about my feminine décor! It was supposed to be OUR house, a place that reflected the two of us. Well, honestly, we never could figure how to do that! For the guy who wanted to live in a sleek, modern apartment in a big city and the girl who wanted to live in a Victorian farmhouse with colored rugs and flowers in vases….there was hardly ever a middle point! So to decorate and change…I could hear him scoff! But on the other hand, I was mad at him!
I told him (aka, talked aloud to myself): “You left me! I get to do whatever I want now. So there!”
In a quiet fury I hung picture after picture of my flowery, feminine paintings.
Up went the lace curtains.
Up went the flowers in jars. (Of course they were fake. He was the only person that could keep plants alive here. )
I already knew what I liked. I had teasingly warned him during discussions in years past, “You think this is girly?! You have no idea what I am capable of!!”
I stood back and admired the first room in eleven years that felt like me. And then I cried. Because no amount of lace or flowers could ever make me feel okay. I would choose him over everything. I dried my eyes, sighed, and looked around. This room made me happy. And if I could have one place that made me feel like that when my world had crumbled, I knew he would be pleased.
As I set up my new desk I knew what it needed: a painting.
Not just any painting though. It needed to be a window, a portal of some sort. From his world to mine. A place we could meet.
I pulled out my largest canvas and all my paints. I started splashing, smearing, and blending.
I felt him by me as I painted. I heard him in my heart say, "Stop. This is it."
And so I named it, “This Must Be the Place” after one of our favorite songs by Talking Heads. A song that always felt so perfectly us, but as I listened to it after he died it shook me to my core with the line:
Love me till my heart stops. Love me till I’m dead.
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)
Song by Talking Heads
Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
I feel numb - born with a weak heart
I guess I must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It's ok I know nothing's wrong... nothing
Hi yo I got plenty of time
Hi yo you got light in your eyes
And you're standing here beside me
I love the passing of time
Never for money
Always for love
Cover up and say goodnight... say good night
Home - is where I want to be
But I guess I'm already there
I come home - she lifted up her wings
I guess that this must be the place
I can't tell one from another
Did I find you, or you find me?
There was a time
Before we were born
If someone asks, this where I'll be... where I'll be
We drift in and out
Sing into my mouth
Out of all those kinds of people
You got a face with a view
I'm just an animal looking for a home and
Share the same space for a minute or two
And you love me till my heart stops
Love me till I'm dead
Eyes that light up
Eyes look through you
Cover up the blank spots
Hit me on the head
I go ooh
I did love him till his heart literally stopped. But my love doesn’t stop there.
I will continue this earthly life. I will raise our sweet children. I will find joy. I know God has plans for me.
And one day when God says it is time, I won’t be afraid, because I know he will be there waiting for me.
And I will know this must be the place.
Here is my new painting I created for my sister on her birthday! Let me tell you--I got lucky in the sister department! She is the kindest, most gentle, patient, and loving soul. I have learned so much from her and I am continually inspired by her spirit.
She had asked me to paint something for her newly remodeled bathroom. She had suggested something with an antique bathtub and my imagination ran away with itself...
She loves mermaids and reading, so that was easy to add. Then putting the mermaid in a room seemed too boring! Then I had to ask myself, "If I were a mermaid, where would I want to be?"
A flower garden, of course!
So that is the story behind the piece. Prints are available in the shop :)
Now if YOU were a mermaid...where would you want to go?
Right now I am typing away, eating some easy pumpkin muffins I just made, drinking wine, and procrastinating on cleaning the house in preparation for Thanksgiving.
I am excited to have family over for the event for the first time, but I am hoping the expectations are kept low.
Thankfully, I have a loving and understanding family that amazingly loves me for who I am--shortcomings and all.
I originally envisioned a potluck dinner with us all sitting in the driveway around the bonfire (my mind works along the same lines as Steve Martin in Father of the Bride--remember when he imagines the backyard wedding being a quaint BBQ?). I was informed that my idea was insane. So we compromised and the family is helping out by bringing some side dishes...but I have to set up tables and the hoopla.
It will be great, I know it will. And if I burn something? We will laugh and it will become a legendary story. Win-win!
Meanwhile, I have been really busy painting custom logos and illustrations. I have been posting all of it on Instagram--so if you want to see more updates go follow me there! I also signed with an art agent! Now comes the part where I try and develop an art portfolio :)
I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of many blessings and sweet moments. I really hope 2014 has been a great year for you too! And how wonderful to think that the best is yet to come.
And a Let's Keep it Real Photograph:
Drinking wine and watching Hostages while you fold your daughter's clothes is totally normal, right? RIGHT?
Hi, my name is Heatherlee...
I realized today that there might be a couple people reading this that are not my family or friends (actually, I am sure there are few of those left because it's kind of annoying when a friend starts a business and all they do is post about their work).
So here are a handful of things you will not find out about me in my fancy About page. I hope you will still be my friend after.
My name is Heatherlee. And I like it.
A lot of people think that the "lee" is a formality, but I really do like it and I always have. It's okay if you accidentally call me Heather, but everyone that knows me knows that I like Heatherlee best.
Even though you might image search "Heatherlee" and uncover some buff or scantily clad women (not me, I promise), I think that deep down Heatherlee is a sweet and artsy name.
A total accident on my parents' part. My mom always wanted a girl named Heather. She wanted to pass on her middle name Marie and my dad wanted to pass on his: Lee. There was not enough room on the birth certificate, so my name became Heatherlee Marie.
And it stuck.
In middle school and high school my best friend was a boy.
I'm not talking Joey and Dawson (i.e., Dawson's Creek) kind of best friends, or even Jo and Laurie from Little Women. There was never a time when we looked into each other's eyes and hearts pitter pattered. GROSS!
At first no one believed we could be best friends. That's just weird. We slept over at each other's house and we couldn't help but be attached at the hip. He made me laugh like no one else and understood me in a way no girl friend had. But we had to cover our tracks because we still wanted to be available to the opposite sex, so we announced we were cousins. We called each other's parents Aunt and Uncle and still do to this day.
He went to another high school half way through. After we graduated he left for LA and now resides in NY. I miss him.
All the time.
I was a secret Thespian.
Well, that was never a secret, but I didn't advertise it.
I am a weird mix of a person. I am sometimes baffled by the perplexities of me. Naturally, I am an introvert. I reenergize while spending time alone. But I always liked to show off my reading skills as a kid and would always have my hand raised to read the passage for class. Of COURSE with emphasis in all the right places. One thing lead to another and in 5th grade I was cast as the Scarecrow in our school play Oz.
It was awesome. It was a life changer. I could be anything I wanted to be! The only problem was my mediocre singing and on a scale of one to ten I was a negative two at dancing. So that usually landed me character roles. But alas, I loved it. I continued through middle and high school, and while I don't do it anymore, it gave me the confidence for grown up life that was invaluable.
My dreams as a third grader:
1. Live in a house with an attic that had a ghost living in it. The ghost would become my best friend.
2. Own a double decker motor home and travel the world.
3. Become a writer, artist, and teacher.
4. Have my dead dog come back to life.
I still hope and wish for these things. Except for number 4. That would be weird.
I feel like I have met so many kindred spirits and made so many wonderful friends the last year and a half! This inspired me to make some free printables for you. They are ready to print 8x10" with 300 dpi, but you can print and crop them as needed.
I love these quotes because they are so true. I have the best friends in real life. They all make me want to be a better person and I could write a book on how awesome each of them are. They are all so different and that's what I love most about them. Well that, and how they are the kindest people ever.
And this last one is here because I'm sure L.M. Montgomery would wholeheartedly agree with wise Mindy Kaling.
Download the folder with the all quotes at full resolution here.
I am so excited to show you these amazing photographs of Jeremy and Rachel's wedding taken by Shane and Lauren Photography.
Earlier this year I met Rachel. She and my childhood friend Crystal started an online boutique called Boutique Dernier Cri. It has romantic and whimsical fashion with vintage flair--basically it looks like clothes for a modern fairytale character. After I helped create their mermaid logo, Rachel asked me if I could paint a fairytale woodland scene for her wedding invitations. I was honored and it sounded like so much fun! I love to look at fairytale illustrations but to create my own scene made my imagination run wild.
Rachel is a big Snow White fan (aren't we all?) and had a beautiful vision for her fairytale wedding with her real life prince. I must admit this was my first time working on anything wedding invitation related (I didn't even plan my own wedding- we eloped! It was a no-stress, tropical wedding on Maui).
Anyway, she was so sweet and told me her idea of having it be the forest scene with a castle in the background. She invited me to look at her private Pinterest board where she had been collecting all of her inspirations. I think this is such a great way to work with clients! I was really able to get a feel for her aesthetic and the colors she was using (dark greens, deep shades of purple). I really appreciate how she trusted me and gave me the freedom to create. But this really would not have happened with out Rachel's vision.
I love that this painting is not just an illustration of a "woodland scene with fairytale castle" but a symbol of the sweet life that these two lovebirds will have together. I love that the scene begins in the forest surrounded by enchanting plants and creatures. The way the castle is off in the distance is a good reminder to remain hopeful and a promise of the future, but even in the forest there is beauty in the present.
This really was a joy to paint. You can buy a print of it in my shop and you can even buy a photography backdrop of it here.
Here are a few snapshots of their Snow White themed engagement photos. SO ADORABLE! You can see more here!
And now I must share a few of the shots from this enchanting, magical, and romantic wedding!
You can see more pictures of the handsome groom, the stunning bride, and the breathtaking wedding here. Thank you Shane and Lauren for the amazing photos you captured!
I am a watercolor artist located in Southern California.