Maybe it’s the overcast sky that brings me to these memories.
Twelve years will have passed in the first week of January since my dad died.
It felt as if the universe shifted… a vacancy so large that it took a quake to fill it. I never thought he’d be gone.
When in Michigan for his burial and settling other things, we almost couldn’t bury him because the frost line was 6 feet deep. However, because he was in an urn, they were able to “tuck him in” before I went home.
The idea of that frost line stayed with me while snowed into the Chicago airport. Somehow I didn’t mind this time in the airport, overnight with other stranded folk. The wings of the planes were iced over. The ground was frozen deeply. I thought about what else lied beneath the frostline, and what remained above.
It was a little like being in shock – the sense of unreality. When I came back home, I went to call him to tell him what a lovely day it was down in the southwest. That’s when it hit me that he was really not there anymore.
“In Memory of Earl” – 30″x 24″ – Mixed Media ©Bohlender
My dad was a hunter, an outdoorsman, a unique man. He always said he was born a hundred years too late. He was a character, genuine and true, even where flawed. He loved me. I do not remember a time when I was younger, out “truckin’ ” across the USA, when he did not help me get started again. He was Swede, proud of it. He was not proud of his French heritage.
He was sick toward the end of his life, and ready to go. He had returned to the area of his birth and childhood because he wanted to die and be buried there.
I painted this while grieving his loss. The bark is from the birch trees in the area, the landscape of near where he grew up; his grave and urn a solid reminder of his death, yet his walking away in the background a reminder of him having been and life yet to come.
Catching up with some of the family, I did get to hear stories of dad and his relatives, and find a sense of roots that I had never known before – being accepted locally because my great grandparents and others were buried nearby. I met my grandma’s brother, and saw myself in his eyes. What an amazing thing to touch roots like that. And, the family homestead was nearby, the barn still standing then.
Family Homestead – 36″x 12″ – Oil ©Bohlender
This place was alive in me from my childhood. Now the barn is blown down and another generation is passing away, but I have a taste of my earthly roots.
All of these paintings are with different family members. They are some of the most heart-felt pieces I have ever painted.
Below is my grandma’s brother. I was able to spend a little time with him while living, still relatively hardy even at 94. His death was grievous to me as well. I spent a little time with him before he died; then also in my art, even though I couldn’t be there in person.
“Uncle Dying” – 14″x 11″ – Oil ©Bohlender
I have been grateful to know some of where I came from, even if it took my dad’s passing to touch my earthly roots. We could never go there, until it was time.
Now I contemplate more my own leaving, my heavenly heritage and citizenship in the Lord’s kingdom. Death is a doorway, a beginning. We are all going home at His appointed time. Praise God.