There’s such a satisfaction for an artist in completing a project. Especially a painting such as “David’s Sunrise,” one that has such significance and meaning in the lives of those who will soon own it. Because of the story behind this image, the painting becomes much more interesting and profound.
I told the story a few weeks ago in a previous blog post, how Donna shot a photo of this beautiful South San Francisco sunrise on her way to work, not knowing that this was the exact location where her daughter’s friend David had died of a drug overdose just a few days before.
That’s one of the mysterious ways God works in touching lives and giving His amazing grace in time of great need.
To anyone else, Donna, a single mom of 10 on a limited income, would seem an unlikely patron of the arts. Yet she felt compelled to commission Mark to paint this, and made payments in order to gift it to David’s mom.
Little did she know that her commission would help Mark relaunch and rekindle his painting vocation after a long hiatus of discouragement.
Little did she know that this single photograph and subsequent commissioned painting would help a family heal as they honor and remember their precious son and brother, but also help draw attention to a much-neglected opioid epidemic in the Bay Area.
Next week we will say goodbye to this painting as it graces its new home, hopefully bringing peace and the tonic of redemption for a hurting family.
The moral of the story is, never underestimate the power of the gift of art.
Thank you, Donna, for the privilege of being part of this story.
After God perfected the sunrise, he created photographers, artists, and poets to ensure his feat remained immortal. – Terri Guillemets
Rarely does Mark get a commission to do a landscape from a photograph, but my old friend Donna had taken a photo that had a profound meaning to her, and she wanted Mark to paint it. When she explained the story behind it, I understood why.
On Feb 19th of this year, Donna’s daughter found out that David, the young man she was seeing, had OD’ed. They were all devastated.
A few days later, on Feb 21, Donna went to work early and decided to take a route she rarely takes. The sunrise was brilliant, so she pulled over on a residential street in South San Francisco, to take this picture.
Later, when her photo was posted on the Everything South City site, someone commented on it, saying that it was very meaningful to her. Not the bird flying above, but where it was taken. It was David’s mother who told her that the photo was the exact location where David had died.
Donna had no idea where David had died when she was inspired to take that sunrise shot, but now this image has become more of a significant landmark to everyone involved.
And for you, the reader, this image becomes one more example of how art can imitate life, and how an unseen God can intervene in the world, making Himself known through an art form, captured at an intersection of time and space, inserting His presence where He is needed most, to help in the process of grief, honoring a young man taken too soon.
Because of Donna’s keen eye for finding beauty in her surroundings, stopping from her everyday routine to appreciate it, she now can bless David’s mom with the gift of this painting.
Life is a great sunrise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.
– Vladimir Nabokov
Mark also gets to be a part of this story. By Donna commissioning him to paint this photo, Mark can now extend his brush to communicate more of God’s beauty and love, to give a little more comfort to a family still hurting from this loss. What a privilege.
You can find out more from Donna on her blog, “From the Shoe,” and her post, “Why I Hate Drugs.”And stay tuned here as I follow the progress of Mark’s painting, “David’s Sunrise.”
Mark working on, “David’s Sunrise,” in his Fresno studio.
P.S. from the Shoelady: David’s mom, Karin Cunningham, was featured on San Francisco’s KRON Channel 4 sharing her story of loss and her determination to warn kids and their parents about this epidemic and to eradicate this danger from her community. Fentanyl laced drug overdoses have increased hundreds fold. Below is the link to her story on Channel 4. See her interview below.
I’m writing this blog in a lot of pain and anguish. Last week my daughter got word that a close friend of hers OD’ed. A good friend of mine lost her son last year to the same thing. Three bodies were found last week in San Francisco, their deaths attributed to suspected drug overdoses. At anytime in the past few years, I could have gotten – and can still get – that dreaded phone call about one of my kids. But I am not writhing in pain today, but this fella’s mother and father are as well as his siblings, cousins and the numerous friends who are shell-shocked by this catastrophic phenomenon known as death. A “really sweet” life gone much too soon.
Death is one of the reasons why I hate drugs, and that includes the abuse of alcohol. All my children, my siblings, and, I am sure, most adults I know are intimately acquainted with the pain associated with drugs and alcohol abuse. How many of us know people who died from alcohol related accidents or drug overdoses? Yeah, most of us. And death is a permanent robber. There is no re-do, no restart. It is GAME OVER for good. Not forever, because as a Christian, I know the good-bye is not eternal, just GAME OVER for here. But still the pain left in the wake of a loved one’s death is unimaginable, heartbreaking. No one is the same, no one recovers.
Another reason I hate drugs is drug use is living a lie. The high we get is a lie. I know many folks use all kinds of drugs to help cope with issues and other difficulties in life, but let me tell you, it’s a lie. Life is freaking hard, and drug use does not make it easier, it makes it harder. God has given us resources to help us in difficulty that can help us grow and not be dependent on drugs or alcohol or anything except Himself. Drugs rob us of those opportunities to grow, even though it’s hard. Sorry, I am really mad and really sad.
Another reason why I hate drugs is if they don’t KILL you, you STILL rob the world, your family, your friends of your life. All your gifts lie dormant, your talents subdued and your great potential squandered. All your parents see in you gets lost to this demon. Your laughter becomes hollow and your eyes dim, your dreams diminish and eventually disappear. All what a parent hopes for their child is lost. A different kind of death. And what is there….a never ending war because while there is life, a parent is gonna fight.
And finally, the last reason why I hate drugs is the pain. Everybody hurts….like the REM song. Granted, I know many who use are in pain, many who drink excessively have pain, I understand and sympathize, but medicating the pain through drug use and alcohol only perpetuates it; it doesn’t resolve it. So the drug user is in pain, I get it, but does the drug user know that their habit causes pain. We’re all in pain. A pain we who watch cannot stop because we love the user.
There’s got to be another way. I hate drugs, I hate what they’ve done to my kids, I hate what alcohol has done to my brother and ex-husband. Their dad’s choices have caused pain that my kids had to deal with at a very young age. I hope that pain can be converted to some good for themselves and their eventual families.
And now, I think about this young man’s mom and dad, and the devastating pain they are in now, today, tomorrow and for the rest of their lives. Someday I might have to walk in those shoes. My daughter has said flippantly, “You won’t care if I die.” I told her I don’t want to find out. I don’t want to know that pain. I am in pain for these people I don’t know just like I am in pain for my friend who buried her 37-year-old son last year. I hope these deaths will steer many away from these drugs. There are tons of resources out there to assist.
Life is hard just the way it is, no need to add to that hardship. Our children are our greatest blessings and most of us parents only want our kids to grow up and embrace life, life with its hardships, yes, but life also with its wonders and goodness. Faith in Jesus Christ gives meaning to this life, its joys and its sorrows. With Him by our side, we can face life. Although life is filled with death and its associated pain; hallelujah, we have a distant hope, one that can somehow – eventually – assuage the desperate, despairing depth of pain a loved one feels. Thank God for that.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. – Revelation 21:4