“Little Angel” 8×10, oil on canvas, $112 Buy Now SOLD
Shae e-mailed me weeks ago after I posted “Brown Eyes,” a painting inspired by a story her cousin, Kristi, sent in. This painting is based on a story from her father, Bobby Siers, founder and craftsman of the Little Angels Foundation.
It’s quite a story, one that gets in your head, stays there a while, makes a little home. I thought I’d make this painting my first non-objective, abstract piece, and I played around with the idea using shapes from the Angel of Grief statue, a 1894 grave sculpture in Rome by William Wetmore Story that serves as the gravestone of the sculptor and his wife. Several replicas of the famous statue have been created all over the world. One even resides locally in Metairie Cemetery.
I had a few very abstract sketches, but when it came time to paint, I kept letting the figure of the angel emerge. I’d abstract her, then bring her back. Eventually, I gave in and let her stay. There are so many things this story inspired me to paint, and maybe one day I’ll get to some of the others, but for, now, this will have to do.
Bobby’s story is simple, profound, devastating, and beautiful. As a mother, I can hardly read parts of it. Editing it for the purpose of this blog, I read it a lot. I needed tissues. I hope it moves you as much as it did me.
I’ve struggled most of my life with “Why? Why God, did you give me a gift and talent that gives me such great physical pain?” But I never took the time to listen for His answer. In June of 2012, I built caskets for two very important men in my life– I lost my brother-in-law and my dad. It was a very spiritually healing experience, and I felt that it was my calling to use this talent for something more meaningful than what I had been doing. I decided, with much prayer and guidance, to close my cabinet shop of twenty five years and build only caskets. Shortly after the conversion of the shop, a co-worker of my wife lost her four year old special needs son. This baby wandered off from a family party and drowned in a nearby creek… The following morning, I was awaken at 5:00 AM with this feeling that I had to do something, so I began work on the tiniest casket I had ever made. I didn’t know how I would present this to the family or if they would want it; I just felt I had to do it. Events unfolded and eventually my wife’s principal presented the offer to the boy’s mother who was overwhelmed with gratitude that a stranger would honor her precious baby boy with such a touching gift. Little Jobe Arceneaux was our first little angel.
After building his casket, I remembered years earlier a friend of mine had an unexpected stillborn baby. He didn’t have much money at the time to cover funeral expenses, so all he could afford that the funeral home offered was a small styrofoam ice chest that they called a “casket”. The more I thought about it and the more calls started coming in for requests for children, the more sense it made. I had to do this for these children. I had to give them one last act of love. There was no way I could ever profit from the pain of others, so my daughter and I started the non-profit organization. Since October 2012, I have built caskets for eighty-seven children through The Little Angels Foundation.
Each caskets is handmade, and I’m not ashamed to say I cry through each one as I think of these little angels and pray for their mothers and fathers. Every one of their children becomes one of “my” little angels. They have meaning to me and touch my heart in a way I can’t explain. I hope that I live right enough in God’s eyes to make it to heaven where I am greeted by all of my precious little angels’ smiling faces….
I thought to do God’s work it had to be on a biblical scale; I was wrong. We were all given talent by God, and I think it was given to us to use for Him. No matter what that talent is, if we would use just a fraction of it to do His work every day…Oh God, what a different world this would be.