Anyone who has been to a Catholic funeral has heard these words. Since I was raised Catholic (and my parents took me and my siblings to a lot of funerals when we were kids), I've heard these words a bunch of times, but they never really registered until recently.
“Neither time nor distance can break the bonds that we feel.”
Anyone who has seen "The Big Chill" has heard these words. Unlike a prayer said in a monotone, those words registered the first time I heard them. I bring up these quotes because both are related to a painting I recently completed, entitled "Perpetual Light".
My oldest and dearest friend, Julia, lost her dad just before Christmas. Victor Villacara (or "Big Vic," as we liked to refer to him) lived a long and full life, filled with love, purpose, and service to others. Victor was a lot like my dad, Frank: large in stature, large in presence, and large in personality. They both had big, booming voices, and neither man was shy about sharing their opinions. Both enjoyed driving giant cars (naturally, Julia's dad's car was referred to as "the Vic-mobile"), and both were active in the community. When my dad passed away in 2009, I found out about some of the kind things he had done for people on the sly...this is another quality that Victor and Frank shared.
Many people attended Victor's wake and funeral, and quite a few of them had stories of kindness to tell that Julia had never heard before. The quote that Julia had chosen for her dad's "in memoriam" card proved to be apt: "We cannot do great things. We can only do little things with great love." The story I found most moving was told by Bernadette, an elementary school classmate of Julia's. Bernadette hadn't seen Julia for many years, but she felt compelled to attend Victor's wake to pay tribute. She said to Julia, "When my sister and I were little, we lost our dad...and your dad took us to the Father-Daughter Dance at school that year." Naturally, Julia was floored, as was everyone who heard the story. "Little things with great love," indeed.
Riding on the ferry on my way home to Maine after the funeral, I pulled out my sketchbook. The experiences of the previous several days were fresh in my mind and in my heart, and I started drawing. On the left is the sketch I did on the ferry that day, and on the right is the completed painting. It's a 3" x 3", and it's only now that I'm realizing that the size is fitting: "little things with great love". May perpetual light shine upon you, Big Vic. By the way, you raised one hell of an awesome daughter. Nice job.