This Thanksgiving was a blessing in many ways, with many family visits, but we suffered a tremendous loss within 12 hours of the holiday. My Mom’s only living sibling, Aunt Joanna, slipped into another world in her sleep the morning after we visited her in the hospice. We were told she had 4-6 months to live a few days ago when she was moved from the hospital to a hospice, but when we arrived at her new serene room, noticing her frail body had lost quite a bit of weight, her boisterous voice was soft and her words staggered, my lively aunt, who just weeks ago was raking the leaves for hours, was vanishing. All we could do was hold her hand, stroke her head and listen to her words as she closed her eyes and passed back and forth on the brim between two worlds. She said she was tired of struggling (to stay alive) and reassured my Mom she was ready to leave (this world). She spoke of the angles all around her (Mom thought we (my cousin Linda, Mom & myself) were her angels, but I wondered if perhaps the morphine might have influenced their appearance since there were "many"). Aunt Joanna always wanted to teach others and I could see & hear she was still on that quest by telling us everything she was experiencing and thinking. I asked if she’d send pictures from the other side via the Internet and her dry lips stretched into one of her few smiles (she was an ardent internet user), then she spoke about things that she saw but we couldn’t see.
Aunt Joanna’s last comment reminded me of the Hetland article and arts education. Many feel there are benefits to the arts, but do to our limited view of what education is (e.g. grades and test scores) the benefits are difficult to see, document and connect. Or maybe the lens we are looking through don’t allow us to be on that brink and value the benefits? Perhaps the benefits are invisable because we don’t test for humanity or what it even means to be human, since that response goes well beyond a check box. Or the things that we value, like our culture, are often missing from the school experience. Through the use of the eight studio habits, the dispositions: craft, engagement, envisioning, expressing, observing, reflecting, exploring, and understanding; we connect with ourselves, we question what is important, what we value, and how that relates to our family, community and culture. For me, once you know what is important to yourself, the rest will flow naturally and you can connect purpose in everything that you see and actions that you take in your daily experiences. Perhaps then we can all see (and express) what others may not see.