By Lynne Saad 1
Unexpected Opportunity: An Artistâ€™s Journey From Darkness into Light
By Lynne Saad
Designed and Edited by Craig Abramson 1
October 11, 1949 - March 23, 2009 Copyright © 2009 by Swedish Medical Center Seattle, WA This PDF of “Unexpected Opportunity” is licensed under the Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-NoDerivis 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 444 Castro Street, Suite 900, Mountain View, California, 94041, USA. Cover image painted by Lynne Saad is titled “Surrender” (24” tall x 27.5” wide, mixed media on playing cards, Copyright © 2008 Lynne Saad Estate) Original “Unexpected Opportunity” paintings are 13” tall x 9.5”wide, acryllic on archival paper “Ready To Learn” (Page 21) by Lynne Saad was given to Lilly Oncology On Canvas (see www.lillyoncolcgyoncanvas.com)
Foreword In this brilliant work, Lynne Saad maps for us her journey into the mystery at the heart of life. Through a series of portraits, each accompanied by a verse, Lynne narrates for us her experience of living and dying with cancer. Lynne’s story is at once as personal as it is universal—personal because it is uniquely hers, universal because each of us will one day walk our own path into the unknown.
Through imagery that reflects deep trust in the beauty of the natural world and human companionship, Lynne first describes her horror at the recognition of her own mortality, then her choice to reach out to others for guidance. Ultimately she comes to view her circumstance as “an opportunity to be instructed and to respond.” In this process of awakening, Lynne finds well-being and control even while her capacities in the physical world are slipping away. As one of her physicians, I had the great privilege of supporting Lynne on her journey. She was as relentless in her inquiries about her disease as she was in making art. She wanted to see the cancer on her scans, to discuss its incurable nature, to understand facts that would help her decide when to stop treatment. Lynne carefully weighed each fact against her own values, priorities, and desires. Throughout this process, she repeatedly returned to reflection, painting and writing, ultimately emerging as a gentle host to the rhythms of life and death. Lynne’s courage was nourished by her husband Jack, her steadfast friends who stood
by her through stormy and tranquil times, her beloved oncologist Henry Kaplan, MD and other members of the care team at Swedish Cancer Institute. She was also nurtured by poetry, the emerging literature on death and dying (of which this work is a valuable contribution) and the recorded talks of contemporary meditation teachers. I was at Lynne’s bedside shortly before she died. Drifting in and out of consciousness, she nonetheless communicated by word and presence undeniable peace, even joy, indelibly imprinting into my heart the spirit of her journey. In her betwixt and between, it seemed to me she was as fully connected to life as she was to her own passing. This record of Lynne’s journey is an immeasurable offering. Lynne honors each of us by demonstrating beyond argument that our hearts and minds have the capacity to hold the entirety of human experience. What better gift than to have at our side a talented cartographer of the soul, a mentor who has traveled into the unknown with eyes wide open and, in the end, tells us by way of language, image and action that death is safe? May the wisdom contained in the paintings and narrative that follow bring joy and comfort to you and to those you love. David Zucker, MD, PhD Medical Director and Program Leader Cancer Rehabilitation Services Swedish Cancer Institute Seattle, WA 98104 July, 2009 3
I Was Formed By This My lifetime home is Seattle. I was formed in her lovely arms. She of low gray skies and moist mist formed me. Lake Washington, Mount Rainier and Puget Sound nurtured me like the little plants that grow atop the fallen cedar near my house. I know the shiny crows that live nearby and they know me. They call to me with intelligent confidence, loud and sure of themselves, they tell me what they think. They ask me to join them in this moment to be here now with them.
Unexpected Opportunity Cancer explodes in my left breast. It is a nightmare, crazy, sad and horrifying.
A firestorm of emotions overwhelms me.
Death is the most important question life has asked me. I am curious and chemotherapy gives me time to entertain the question. I enlist the help of those who are wise in this business and they give me guidance. With their help, I reflect. I look at the truths of my life, grieve my losses, forgive and heal my heart. I grow through knowing. I am helped to see how rich in friendship my life has been. My spirituality flowers and I say THANK YOU, for I have known much goodness in my life.
Blue Scarf A shower of care falls on me. Ham, cards, music, fruit, bacon, books, movies, letters, flowers, earrings, meatloaf, pot roast, cassoulet, necklaces, bracelets, phone calls, and a beautiful blue scarf. I am overwhelmed with gratitude from the kindness and the goodness in the world.
A Button on My Chest I have a little button planted beneath my skin and it is called a port. Medicines that give me life are delivered through a tiny needle and long loopy tubes. On the day my port is opened, my friends join me. They deliver happiness for the whole day; they make a little party for me and share their cakey goodness.
The Nurse With Red Hair No requirement of employment asked that she care for me with tenderness. Any other nurse could have picked up my chart that first day of chemo. It was the beautiful red-haired nurse that claimed me that day, over two years ago. She said, “I will be YOUR nurse”, and I knew that she expected nothing in return. The nurse with red curls wraps me in warm blankets and brings me tea. In her honeyed voice she tells me stories about her Canadian family, her children, her camping adventures, and the big Easter egg hunt at her farm. She has worn big tasteless earrings and funny hats with me on my chemo days. She laughs from her belly, and her hugs warm and liftme. The shots she gives NEVER hurt. She tells me that it is her “honor and privilege” to care for all of her patients.
Bald Hair fell out in messy clumps and my friends brought clippers and shaved it all off. It floated to the deck, where a tiny breath of wind handed it to starlings. Friends embraced me with their kind words. They told me I was still beautiful. They played with me at the wig store, and made lovely soft hats for me. Itâ€™s not about the hair.
Grief I dive in. Float in the rough dark water and let the tide bring me back to shore. Once I thought if I did not get in grief’s water, if I ignored the sea, it would go away. Grief refused to be ignored, and with its icy grip pulled me in. Every loss asks me to dive and float …… until the wise tide, on its own schedule, brings me back.
Fairy-Pixie-Angel Alter Ego I’d like to be a Fairy-Godmother-AngelButterfly-Pixie. A hummingbird, or a golden feathered finch, a little bird doll whirring at the edges of the sky. I’d like to speak the language of lilies and float on the breeze. I’d like to know that truth is not necessarily so. I’d like to whisper a kiss on the cheeks of my loved ones, and feel the softness there. I’d want them to know how deeply they are cared for and that I am not so far away. That’s what I’d like, when I am returned to the light and the air.
I do not want only to be a FairyGodmother-Angel-Butterfly-Pixie untouched by disappointment, and knowing only those things that are safe. I’d like to be courageous, gritty, thorny, and soft. A strong and wise woman who can deal with mice, a fly in her ear, and stand strong in the face of the fear.
Ready to Learn Here I am with stage IV breast cancer, ready to learn what no one has taught me before. My trips abroad have been replaced by trips to my within. I am learning to accept the loving kindness of others. My relationships have deepened and become fully precious. In recognizing my losses, I am learning to allow my grief and tears. I have found the profoundly human part of myself. In exhuming buried stories, I am becoming more fully awake to how I have been limited by my unexamined past and I am learning that being who I am, is freeing. In living with the unknowns, I am learning to trust in the wisdom of a higher power to provide me with what I need to make decisions that give my life deeper meanings.
Bound I am wrapped in a disease that will take my breath, circumstances beyond my control. A package with a bow, hands free to remove the wrapping and examine all that lies within, an opportunity to be instructed, and respond.
Truce My flag is raised and I ask for a truce. An end to the argument of â€œWhy?â€?
I prefer to embrace, and accept.
I ask to act with grace, courage, and humor.
I ask to be at peace.
A Garden Grows Inside I am more often truant from the world outside of me and more often present at the school of my inner life. I planted little seeds of faith, hope and love. I tended this garden everyday. And now a flowering garden grows inside me.
Little Moon Lanterns It is a dark night, cold, damp, and quiet. I am on the path. Golden finches, soft fawns, and dangerous dogs hide here behind the forest wall. My headlamp and tiny moon lanterns light the uneven trail, a path new to me. I make my way slowly with small steps, stumbling sometimes.
I am on my way home.
Choker of Pearls Life gave me a lengthy string of pearls. On this Island I have known the joy of trusted friends and Mother Natureâ€™s imposing and humbling majesty. Today I take my leave and know not when or if I will return. It is here, that fat rabbits watched as we soaked our toes in a bubbly footbath, painted toenails purple, and decorated ourselves with bindi and fake tattoos. It was here that we ate onion pie, waffles blanketed with ruby colored strawberries, and drank minty mojitos. We dressed ourselves in everything wrong for the mainland; fluffy skirts, vintage swimsuits, big earrings and thick eye makeup. It was on this Island that masterpieces of craft were created at the kitchen counter. We told our stories and laughed too loud. It was here that we reclined in warm sand near sparkly water on a beach strewn with driftwood and kelp. We peeled the bark from twisted trees, played bingo on the beach, made our dreams bigger near a warm fire; we watched a flock of white buoys sit on oily water. We listened to Corinne play her violin in the old dancehall and Ricky sang zydego on the Fourth of July. It was here that we witnessed tiny deer cross the yard, fat cedar waxwings eat white berries, and herons squall. It was here that we rocked in the hammock comforters while hummingbirds whirred and glittered and dived overhead. It was here one night that we saw a bleeding sturgeon moonrise and heard an old gray whale breathe. It was here that we told stories of humanity, both tender and sad. We discussed solutions to the problems of the world. We dreamt large dreams and were made glad for that moment we were transported to gladness. We saw sunrises that turned the meadow orange and thorny wild roses that assaulted us with their fragrance. It was here that we had nothing to do and all day to do it. We made no plan for the day, and instead let the surprises unfold. Oh Dear Mother of all, you filled my neck with pearls and now I feel a little choked. 30
Camp I made a litle camp in my guest room. I hung a mosquito net over the bed and padded it with softness, hung lanterns all around. It is a small retreat away from busyness and the world. I invite my friends to be here with me. Here we open ourselves and tell our truths. We listen with caring, and make our loads light. It saves me.
Forgiven and Thanked As I reflect on my life I find unfinished business, relationships left incomplete. I practice holding those individuals in the light of my imagination. I thank those who have touched my heart with kindness.
I forgive those who have caused me pain.
I ask to be forgiven by those I have hurt, to tell them I am sorry. It is in this way I resolve the relationships, heal them and make them complete.
Who Will Hold Him Now? We found our way together step by step. Sometimes we stumbled. Occasionally we found our sense of humor had gone astray. He has held me tight when I crashed and he has said, “I’ve got you.” And I felt safe and loved. He assures me that I can go and he will be OK.
Who will hold him now?
I pray, send him someone who will hold him and say, “I’ve got you.” Someone who will kiss him glad again.
Letting Go I am falling into a safe place. Falling, floating, and weightless, I no longer hold on to my old fears of unworthiness.
I Know the Lilies
I know the lilies and they know me.
We live together in my imagination and in my heart. They fill my head with their lullaby; they let me be present in their heaven.
I am here, but I am not.
We Do Not Know I do not know when death will come. I know for certain that it will. I do know the beloved presence of shimmering hummingbirds, little angels whirring and twirling as they dive, hover and play. Some promise death is this and much, much more.I do not know, but when it comes, I hope to enter its doors with curiosity and wonder.
Saying Goodbye is a Serious Matter Last summer, beneath the big dipper, little plums separated from the tree near the place my head rested on a soft pillow. I heard their tiny thud as their fruity bodies met the earth.
We are always meeting and then separating.
It would be easy to say goodbye if I did not care so much for the people in my life. For now, I say “Thank You.” Knowing you made me better. “Goodbye” is too serious. I hope instead to meet again.
Lynne Saad was a native Seattle artist who was known for her creative style in dress, cooking, design, and living. Lynne’s curiosity, sense of adventure, and power of observation were often satisfied through her travels and explorations, which could have been to foreign countries, art galleries or local thrift shops. As a teacher she was calm, patient, and encouraging. As a friend she was loving, supportive, empathetic, and an attentive listener.
Lynne and I started this book project together, and her spirit has been present with me and the many others who have joined in this volunteer project. Her husband Jack continues to be supportive every step of the way. Linda Young Hutchinson, Lynne’s art photographer, is responsible for all the art images except “Ready to Learn.” The photographers Davis Freeman (page 2, © 2005) and Ti Locke (title page, afterword, and back cover) kindly permitted the use of their work. The encouragement and contribution of all the following were instrumental in many ways and at many times: Lynne’s good friends Kim Strumwasser, Marcia Katica, Nancy Abramson, and Catherine Person; the experts Dennis Evans, Harry Rutstein, Michael Durrant, and Cheryl Slean; and the good doctors David Zucker and Hank Kaplan.
The poems and paintings of Unexpected Opportunity were produced by Lynne during the last eighteen months of her life. In 2006, Lynne was diagnosed with a very aggressive breast cancer and began a series of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. As she began examining her mortality she found these paintings and poems were a therapeutic outlet to assist her in the process.
It is my sincere hope that Lynne’s images and poetry may serve as guideposts for others and that they may lead to some comfort and serenity for those searching on a similar path.
In her journey towards death, Lynne demonstrates a fortitude and courage not only to explore these difficult emotions and subjects but also to so eloquently record and share them. From my first reading of the poetry drafts I believed that these intimate revelations could help others in the same situation. Lynne humbly agreed to allow this collection to be preserved in this compilation with the understanding that any proceeds would benefit the Kaplan Cancer Research Fund and the True Family Women’s Cancer Center at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. 46
Craig Abramson Designer and Editor
An online interview from 2008 with Lynne Saad and Nancy Guppy is available at:
Donations to the Kaplan Cancer Research Fund and the True Family Womenâ€™s Cancer Center can be made at:
Swedish Medical Center Foundation
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Lynne Saad EDUCATION 1980 Masters of Art Education, University of Washington 1971 Bachelor of Art Education, University of Washington SELECTED ONE PERSON EXHIBITIONS 2009 2008 2002-2004 1998-1999 1996 1995
“Unexpected Opportunity” Catherine Person Gallery, Seattle, WA “Everything I Ever Loved (in no particular order) Catherine Person Gallery, Seattle, WA Selected Paintings, Beach House Restaurant, Gig Harbor, WA Selected Paintings, Mirianis Restaurant, Seattle, WA Selected Paintings, Imogene Cunningham Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA Selected Paintings, Whole Sky Gallery, Seattle, WA
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2008 2008 2006 2006 2005 2005 2005 2004 2004 1999 1999 1998-1999 1998-2003 1995 1994 1993 1993 1993 1992 1992-1993 1992-1993 1992-1993
“Ready to Learn”, Lilly Oncology On Canvas, Eli Lilly Travelling Exhibition The Black & White Show, Catherine Person Gallery, Group Exhibition Catherine Person Gallery at SAM Gallery, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA “At Once”, Group Exhibition, Catherine Person Gallery, Seattle, WA Exhibition with Rachel Illingworth, Nole Giulini, Catherine Person Gallery, Seattle, WA “Introductions”, Group Exhibition, Catherine Person Gallery, Seattle, WA Artists Trust Auction, Seattle, WA Seattle Men’s Chorus Auction, Seattle, WA “Seven Days in March”, James Crespinel Studio, Seattle, WA Patricia Cameron Gallery, Seattle, WA, Group Exhibition Educational Service District, Burien, WA, Group Exhibition School of Visual Concepts, Seattle, WA, Group Exhibition Swedish Medical Center, Seattle, WA, Group Exhibition(s) American Art Gallery, Tacoma, WA Artsplash, Redmond, WA Colorado College Gallery, Boulder, CO, Group Exhibition Artsplash, Redmond, WA Gallaria Tontazin, National Group Exhibition, California Artsplash, Redmond, WA North Coast Collage Society National Travelling Exhibit Artists Who Teach; Travelling Art Exhibit The Evergreen State College, Washington State University, Wenatchee Junior College
AWARDS 1996 1993 1993 1992-1993 1992
Imogene Cunnigham Gallery, University of Washington, Juried Award Marie Walsh Sharpe Fellowship Winner Artsplash Purchase Award, Permanent Collection City of Redmond North Coast Collage Society, Jurors Choice Award Artsplash, Jurors Choice Award
PROFESSONAL EXPERIENCE 1976-2002 1972-1976
High School Art Teacher, North Shore School District, Washington High School Art Teacher, Seattle Public Schools