Before I became a university professor, I had big dreams of being a great artist. I was accepted to the University of Utah’s art school and earned a bachelor’s degree of fine art in painting and drawing. In the years that have followed God has led me in another direction for my full-time profession, but I continue to paint on the side as opportunities and inspiration present themselves. One of the most meaningful paintings I’ve ever done was finished this past month.
Over ten years ago my very dear friends, Pete and Michelle, tragically lost their only daughter, named Alex, in an accident. In spite of their suffering and sorrow from their loss, I have never known anyone who has dealt with tragedy more exemplary and faithfully than they. Over the decade since Alex’s passing, Pete and Michelle have been blessed with four additional children to their family. Last year Michelle approached me with an idea for a painting: She wanted their complete family painted together, including Alex. Michelle had seen an image of a book cover called Running with Angels that shows a woman running alone, but there are two children running along with her that can only be seen in the reflection of the water. Michelle envisioned an image like that done of her entire family, with the image of Alex seen in the reflection of the water. I gladly agreed to create it for them, and with their permission want to share the result.
Below is the final painting. Alex is reflected on the viewer’s right. I painted her at the age she would be today—about 14. If you look at the detail image you can see I painted a little halo around her head; their own angel. I can sincerely say that I felt a heavenly influence making this painting. Not that the work is any sort of masterpiece of painting. It surely could have been done better by others more talented than me. The divine influence I felt wasn’t the inspiration causing me to paint like Rembrandt, but more of the inspiration that whispers to each of us, in quiet moments, that there is life after life; that the spirit within each of us is eternal; that those who we have lost are not lost, merely separated from us for a time, yet still with us; that because Christ lives, we—and all those we love — will live also.