Carving Words Into Bones


I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about mortality—specifically, my own. Perhaps it’s because my husband is in his mid-forties now and his mind is grappling with aging and ageism in his career field. Maybe it’s his sudden concern for our future, for what legacy he’s leaving behind for our sons. Perhaps it’s because I just turned 33, and I’ve been having my own “WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO BE DOING WITH MY LIFE” wrestling matches the last 3 months, because you know, the whole Jesus Year thing. Perhaps . . . perhaps it’s because my non-neurotypical children are getting older and as I advocate for them and their care, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I won’t always be here to help them navigate this world. I feel an urgency to appropriately model what it’s like to be an empowered patient so that they can learn how to be in charge of their health and wellness. Maybe it’s because I see their limitations and I see my own, and I’m scared illness with take me from them before I’m able to fully be the kind of mother they need.

So . . . I . . . I can’t point toward what exactly has triggered this recent preoccupation with mortality, but I do know, after David Bowie’s passing, I suddenly became all too aware that my days of inhabiting this body composed of flesh, bone, contracting muscle, blood, and oxygen are limited. The weight of not knowing the number of moments/days/weeks/months/years that I have left settles like a weight of bricks on a scale in my gut while I’m going about my daily living as wife and mother. It presses my hands deeper into the canvas while I paint and pushes my hand further and faster across the page as I mark line, shape, and form.

I’m not afraid of dying, at least not completely. It’s not the idea of only existing in a loved one’s heart or long-term memory that scares me about death. What terrifies me is passing on to whatever is on the other side of living before I’ve wrung every last drop out of my current existence. I know as Christians we’re supposed to long for eternity and desire to be in God’s presence. I know I’m supposed to hate this deteriorating body and long for my heavenly one. I know I am supposed to long for a world unlike this one that’s full of evil and sin.

But the truth is . . . especially as an artist . . . I don’t.

Instead, I yearn to create like He does, unabashedly, fully, and wonderfully. I long to live a life of expression that leaves no story untold, no emotion resting in dormancy. My desire is to spend every waking moment excavating what He’s put inside of me to put back out into the world. Carving words and images into bones and being on canvas and through a myriad of colors is what my soul pants after day in and day out. Creativity is something that consumes me like the fire searing Jeremiah’s bones. I know that in pursuing it, I’m ultimately pursuing Him. Like David Bowie, I want to be on my deathbed making an artistic statement about the dying process or injustice, or motherhood, or faith, or humanity or about anything I have left in me to express. I don’t want to wait for heaven and a perfected heavenly body to worship the Creator with what He had in mind for me when He first called me into being.

I don’t want to die with words and abstract visuals still waiting patiently on my tongue, queued up in my mind, or pooling at my fingertips. So I’ve spent the first month of this new year fully committed to getting it all out as it comes, on canvas, on paper, with pencil, paint, matte medium, and ink. That yielding has pushed me to make and do regardless of whatever stress I’m under in other areas of my life, and considering my own mortality has helped me commit to no longer holding back. It has also brought me freedom, deliverance from expectations, clarity about purpose, and a renewed faith that the one who saw Hagar in her struggle has also seen me in mine during this season. Here’s to a creative 2016.  

A'Driane Nieves
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