I started painting this three days after my friend TJ died. I may have laid the base coat the night of that final morning.
Those three days were surprisingly joyous; as I painted Rylo Ken and hung out with my wife, A. Dawn, we felt TJ's presence well up from deep in our core, the part of him that will be with us always, vibrant and strong, free to celebrate his freedom with his spirit. I had just begun painting in earnest this spring, and did not have a long history of frustration with it; painting fit right in alongside learning Japanese songs or electric bass with embracing new things of late. For these years I've been drawing in pencil, I've yearned to give you more color, and thanks to A-Dawn, we're acrylic and idyllic!
We Good, We Good!
On some level, I got this painting to many stages where it looked in some way brilliant. Yet, my haste to send it to Oklahoma, absent of TJ himself, dissipated. I began thinking of it becoming an object to associate so much so with grief that it might be put away one day soon as a bad memory marker. So I waited. I learned a lot about painting this time out. There's still something wrong with it. But when would I ever want to finish a memorial painting for a best friend in the world like TJ? You NEVER want to face that. But you do. So much more intense for his wife and daughter. This is really for them, because he was really theirs, most of all.
Encouragement. Companionship. More real world trouble than 99% of the human race, but for the time he came on to chat or even share a call on the phone, he was these things 100% personified. He was honest from the start when we reconnected that I couldn't actually expect him to live anything like a normal life span now, and eventually he prepared me to begin making peace with the fact that one day, any day, the final message would come. In this life's world, anyway. Beyond a bit of death in the way, we're pretty much inseparable!
Here we are, singing one of his absolute favorite songs (favorite?) for his birthday in 2013.
By request from big Red himself:
This joy he strove to achieve in his agony reflects here. His daughter seemed very protective of her poor hurting Pa, in the sweet photo I modeled over and over again. His smile masked tremendous pain! But with Mama's help, they did make joy. The hardest part is going on to live a life while the person you love suffers alone at home, but TJ is beyond loneliness now, and pain. What a triumph it was to live. What a triumph it was to die. In their love, they found "A Better Place." That emotional place of family love, as viewed by the mother, is where the painting is set.
I will never forget his courage, for he has been part of my support system again not only these past six (at present)years, but on so many days when he could not reach anyone at all, and I was writing good stories about my lost friend as early as 2000 or so, this jazz-inspired story about us on the loose in Shannon as young'uns. He gave me a seat for his darkest demons, and allowed me to intuit many things too hard for emotional people to read, and tell him what I thought. We could do this because TJ, unlike so many people, never ever looked down on me, nor I, him. All his false sense of self-importance had been destroyed when the disease beyond diagnosis tore away his world beyond his will. Yet, he was glad for that, to be more pure as a spirit, while more crippled as a body. But yes, I know he missed a regular life, and there was no one more grateful for those who never really gave up on him.
I'm leaning on the first three years of posts for content, but many of my stories have a shot at appearing in Integr8d Fix vol. one by Christmas season. Besides, like TJ, I often have been at my best when I am simply a few words to read at your leisure. Our mutual friend Paula Hill Lewis asked me to make a printed book I think three years back now, and she'll be the first to know. Hope to end the month with Be Chill, Cease ill in print. Hope with me?
What a long, strange trip it's been.
RIP Troy Heath Jones, "B'Joy," "TJ" "Certified Electrician at age eleven."