Friday, February 22, 2008

A New Blog: Art & Healing

Months have passed since Brianna died and the grief we feel is sometimes insurmountable. I have told my husband I am broken and will never be the same. I suspect he feels the same. But I do have days when the grief does not consume me and I think of our talented daughter with a smile on my face. Other times, I just sit and cry in disbelief that she is gone and that life has dealt us this nightmarish blow.

To help me weather the worst kind of grief a parent can experience, I have turned to my art and have started a new blog: Art & Healing. There, you will find some of the art I am creating and some of the emotional roller coaster we are still one. I lose myself in my art, and I have some quiet moments when I think I am still the mother of two children, before reality sets in. I love our son Trevor and know he is suffering too. But his life is still ahead of him, and he tries hard to try to be "just another 16-year-old" at school and with his friends. We understand, but also talk about the pain we all feel.

We have finally set up the charitable giving fund in Brianna's name. It is managed by Fidelty Charitable Gift Fund. This means that every year, our family and friends can donate to the fund and the donations are tax deductible. However, the minimum donation is $1,000. We are looking into ways that smaller donations can be made, either by matching funds or pooling donations.

In addition, we are also going through the charity or charities that could benefit from this money. Organizations, colleges or institutions that promote art will be our focus, since Brianna had a passion for art. For those of you who donated, we thank you so very much for your kindness.

I will be adding links about the charitable giving fund on my new blog and website. We appreciate the love we have felt from so many in the arts community, from friends and family, and Brianna's friends. I will leave you with a quote from the book I read often, Healing After Loss, by Martha Whitmore Hickman:

I am, and always will be, a part of all that I have known.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Forever in Our Heart

It's been almost a month and half since Brianna died and an hour doesn't go by that I don't think of her. Every day, it is hard to get out of bed and crying is something I do on a regular basis. Several hours will go by when the grief is not foremost in our minds. John, Trevor and I have had some nice family time together recently, but it is bittersweet. When we're enjoying ourselves, thoughts of Brianna float into our minds and we all realize just how much we miss her. This is a pain that no parent or brother or sister should have to bear, and yet here we are having to struggle through it. Family and friends continue to help us, and my art has given me some respite from the constant ache in my heart.

The response to Angels for Brianna was beyond our imagination. We are grateful to all the artists who participated, and to all who bid on the beautiful angels available. The workmanship and talent was amazing, and to the organizers, Colleen, Sylvia, Kitty and Stephanie we are so very appreciative.

We received two packages in the mail over the past week or so. The first was from King of Mice Studios, Carolee Clark. You may remember, one of the items in the auction was a breathtaking box painted with Brianna's image on it and stars with crystals. Well, Lyndy purchased the item and sent it to us. I cried when I opened it and read her card. Lyndy, you have no idea how special this is to us, thank you, thank you. With tears in my eyes, I am writing this to let you know I will use it to keep all of Brianna's jewelry. She would like knowing that her special things will be kept in a truly special keepsake.

The second package was from Deerfield Farmhouse's Christine Crocker, an artist who is in the Directory of Traditional American Crafts 2007. She donated an angel doll to the auction. Her work is unbelievably detailed and lovely and someone sent us the stunning angel. The purchaser remains anonymous, but I suspect she has been one of our greatest supporters. You know who you are, and I want you to know that we are ever so grateful to all that you have done for us. I have placed the sweet angel next to Brianna's portrait in our family room and next to the crown given to us by Donna O'Brien of the Ribboned Crown. I will cherish these things until the end of my days, when I will see Brianna again.

I also want to thank Donna for helping me get out and work on art. Soon after Brianna's funeral, she signed she and I and Colleen up for a class held about two weeks ago and lead by Ulla Milbrath at Castle in the Air in Berkeley . (Ulla contributed the decorative and beautiful filligree necklace for the auction.) The class was Fairy Tale Altered Books and we had a good time. We all felt Brianna was with us. Before class, Ulla presented me with an antique paper angel that was used during celebrations at a church. It has curly hair and blue eyes and reminds me of my daughter. Thank you Ulla for such a thoughtful and wonderful gift.

As the days go by, I can't stop thinking "Why? Why Brianna?" It is something that will haunt me for a very long time. We went to the Compassionate Friends meeting last week and most of the parents there had children who passed away several years ago. They were so supportive and understanding of each other and us. And they acknowledged that it takes a long time before you stop asking "Why?" and accept what is. We all talked about our children who died and our children who survive. We discussed how they get messages from their beloved children. One woman told us how she found a lone cloud in a clear blue sky in the shape of the first letter of her long gone son's name, and how another has butterflies landing on her when she thinks of her son. The group meets monthly and John and I plan on attending for a while.

I've written much here, I know it's been a long time and I know it is a bit disjointed. I have written more in a journal I'm keeping. It began as Brianna's Idea book. She had cut and pasted art ideas and drawings of things she wanted to create into a large, bound sketch book. Only the first 15 pages or so were filled during the past year. Hopes and dreams she will never fulfill. I have commented on some of her ideas and how she so wanted a laser cutter to make laser sculpted, acrylic pendants. I have written how I actually priced one out for her and found they run about $10,000. Besides the price tag, it wouldn't have fit in our home. I had to tell her no on that one, but she understood. I am writing memories about her and the things she did that made her so unique and the daughter I love and miss so very much.

Brianna ~ You are forever in our hearts. God bless my sweatheart.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Angels for Brianna Begins Sunday, July 8

Many caring and talented artists are contributing to an online art auction in honor of our daughter Brianna Lauren Grant, Jan. 12, 1990 - June 15, 2007. Angels for Brianna will last for one week, beginning Sunday, July 8, and ending on Saturday, July 14. Our family is so touched and appreciative of the 70 or more artists who have donated their time and talents to memorialize our courageous and beautiful daughter who died in the hospital after four months while undergoing a bone marrow transplant. Brianna is in our hearts and her loss is felt by many. We are broken by her passing. No words can adequately express our gratitude to all of you for your time and talents. For now, we can only say thank you, thank you for all that you have done and continue to do. Please click on the link above for information about the auction.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Many family and friends came to Brianna's funeral. Because we were in such grief, I did not think to take pictures. Actually, it made me so sad to think of taking pictures, because all I wanted to do was forget that my baby was dead. But one friend, Virgil, did take some and I'm glad he did. This is one of his pictures of the dove release.

Our family gathered around Brianna's casket and we were each given a dove to hold. At the same time, we released them into the air. They circled several times before journeying home. The release symbolized Brianna's spirit rising and joining other family members who have passed away and are now in the heavens. The doves also symbolized "letting go" and the beginning of our grieving. We all cried softly as the beautiful birds fluttered away together into the sky.

We have received numerous cards of condelences with special notes written from many of you. They are all special to us. I'd like to share one in particular.

While Brianna and I were in the hospital, she would would get massages to help relax her. One of the volunteer therapists, Kathy, always came in with a smile and laid healing hands on Brianna as part of the massage. She even spent extra time giving me one on my neck and shoulders, when she could. She sent a special card with the word "Grace" surrounded in glitter and inside she wrote a beautiful note:

You and Brianna are in my thoughts.

I will always marvel at what I sensed as your daughter's calm and completely centered place at the heart of her being. Repeatedly, as I worked with her, regardless of what was swirling around her, or happening at the physical level, she seemed to have access to this core. I believe this core was the place of true healing for her.

I wrote the enclosed Haiku in Brianna's memory. I am blessed to have been touched by both of you. Peace...Kathryn

Here is her Haiku:

Stream fall over moss
One leaf glides to pebble path
Dew rests on stone bench

Storm in wrong season
Gales rage outside courtyard walls
Garden calm, pond smooth

She walks here in grace
Where the courageous soul lives
Her still sacred space

Thank you Kathryn...John and I both thank you. We will treasure your words and poem, along with the cherished memories of our sweetheart.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Missing Our Dear Angel and So Many Kind People

The past few days have been a blur. Our hearts are broken, and I feel like I am suffocating at times. There is nothing so horrible like the death of a child. We have purchased several books on how to go on living after losing a child. They have helped somewhat, in that we feel like there are others out there who are like us - hurting beyond belief. We will be meeting with a grief counselor of the Compassionate Friends group this week.

In our society, if your husband dies, you are a widow; if your wife dies, you are a widower; if your parents die when you are young, you are an orphan. But what is the term for parents whose child dies? It is an abomination of nature, thus there is no word.

John, Trevor and I console each other, talk much about Brianna and look at the many photos of her we put together on two large memory boards at the funeral. I've been lighting a scented candle near her photo every night and last night I felt her arms wrapped around me and heard her whisper, "The candle smells nice, mom. I love you." The hurt is too hard to bear. She is loved so very much.

Brianna, our angel, has touched the lives of many people. She would smile at that thought. A wonderful friend made a gorgeous crown for Brianna to wear, as she goes into her next life. It says, "Brianna, Our Angel." She gave me one as a remembrance. (I will take a picture and post it next time.) Brianna is also wearing one of two matching bracelets given to us from a dear friend. I wear the other. I also surrounded her with the things she loved, a Sharpie for drawing, a scroll with loving words from family and friends, her Hello Kitty nodder, green Extra gum, her Tazo Passion tea, a heart-shaped pillow given to her by grammy, photos of her with her family and other items. She is wearing the dress and sparkly shawl she wore to my cousin's wedding last June in Tahoe. One year and life has changed so dramatically.

We will scatter Brianna's ashes over the ocean in Southern California. We will include flower petals too. Brianna loved going to the beach with her friends. It was that image that helped her many times while she was naucous and uncomfortable in the hospital. She found the ocean calming. Her family will be surrounding her with love.

So many kind people have helped us along our journey, and even more have come forward to help now. Some dear friends who are artists have put out a call to other artists and friends to contribute to an art auction in Brianna's honor. It is called, "Angels for Brianna." All items are angels and the artists who are contributing are beautiful people and very talented. Colleen Moody, Sylvia Anderson and Kitty Forseth are coordinating this effort on our behalf. Brianna would love this, because she started a collection of angels before entering the hospital.

Angels for Brianna will take place in the next few weeks. I've listed the blogs where you can find information and the exact start date. There are many other people who are participating and have listed the auction on their website or blog. Thank you friends for having such big hearts and reaching out to us. Please visit Syliva's blog (, Colleen's (, and Kitty's ( for more information.

It is getting harder and harder for me to write here. I sob uncontrollably. I will continue though, because I know Brianna would encourage me to. John, Trevor and I are hurting so much, but your thoughtfulness, caring, patience and kind words help ease a little of our sorrow. We thank you for that.

Friday, June 22, 2007

My Eulogy to My Lovely Daughter, As Read June 21, 2007

Our dear daughter has slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God. She leaves a huge emptiness in the hearts of all of us who loved her, many who were her friends, and even more who just had a glimmer of her through our family.

It’s cliché, but Brianna was truly beautiful inside and out. You could feel her energy when she was near. She was 17, bubbly, outgoing, vivacious, funny, silly at times and just simply like no other. She wanted to try all things new and was not afraid. Brianna enjoyed life and was eager to taste all that it offered.

We planned to go to Paris, as part of her Make a Wish. She wanted to see Alaska and she would have loved to experience Japan. She liked almost anything that had an Asian flair, and loved sushi. While she was in the hospital, we made plans for the family to go back and visit Memphis to enjoy her favorite sushi restaurant. Also, she wanted to bask in the sun while sitting in the lovely backyard of our dear friends and neighbors Alissa and Steve.

I’m telling you these things because some of you only knew Brianna through me and didn’t get a chance to be impressed by her, like so many were upon first introduction. Those of you who did know her, realize that we will miss her laugh, her funny little squeals, and the sparkle in her big blue eyes.

She had a wide taste in music from Johnny Cash to Green Day. She loved to dance and to to concerts. Brianna’s love of art varied from large scale stencils and street art to abstract and the masters. Her room is a collection of Hello Kitty, quirky signs, doodles from friends and her own hand and different little things she found interesting. She had a knack with her camera and would take candid pictures of friends and even herself. She made so many, many friends in her short life.

Brianna really had it all. She was beautiful and smart and warm and caring. She would have been deciding this summer if she were going to attend an art school in New York and follow her passion of creating hand crafts, sewn bags, stenciled clothes, journaling or painting. Or, if she would take the more practical approach and head to MIT and follow her love of math and chemistry.

She and John shared a close father/daughter relationship. They had similar personalities looking for adventure and a willingness to move to new cities and see the world. Brianna would turn to him for advice about school, college choices and career. He was the champion of her dreams. When she was worried, she’d go to him and he’d calm her fears, ending their conversation with a hug and “I love you baby.”

Brianna loved her brother Trevor immensely. She shared a special bond with him that only comes from being close siblings and close friends. You would hear them talking together in one of their rooms, or exchanging knowing glances and laughing about something, and relying on one another when alone. Every night they told each other I love you before going to bed.

Brianna and I shared a closeness that only a mother and daughter can. We laughed together and cried. She loved to create almost anything and I indulged her. We’d go shopping and she’d find yet another purse to bring home and add to her growing collection. She began to take more of an interest in vintage clothing and antique items, and we’d go to the antique market or thrift shops together looking for unique treasures. I would often turn to her for an opinion on a piece of art I was creating.

Brianna and her friends Chelsea and Nina would come over and hang out in my studio and make jewelry, painted shirts, altered tees and whatever their hearts desired. Or, they’d be in the kitchen cooking up a new recipe Brianna found and wanted to try. You’d hear them all giggling and sharing stories. Brianna would always make more to share with the rest of the family. She was so considerate.

Most importantly, Brianna was brave, courageous and strong. In the hospital, she made plans to start a garden and begin a regular exercise program when she was well. She crocheted a frosted cupcake and donut with beaded sprinkles, and she met the winner of last year’s Suvivior series. The doctors, nurses and other care professionals were touched by her sweetness and fortitude. And they saw her willingness to do what had to be done to get well, often called her a “trooper.” Really, she was a warrior.

She lived only a short 8 months after her diagnosis of MDS, and of those four were in the hospital. She fought with all her might after undergoing a bone marrow transplant and getting a lung infection in February. I stayed with her sleeping in the room until two months ago, when Brianna was admitted to the intensive care unit with pneumonia. She was unconscious for almost the entire time. I held her hand often in the hospital and stroked her brow, massaged her feet, encouraged her, talked to her and told her I loved her. The cruel part is that she was so close. Just a week and a half ago, she was communicating with me and the nurses picking music to play and pointing. Then, last Tuesday her heart temporarily stopped from bleeding in the lung. By Thursday, it was evident she would not recover and on Friday I held her hand, pressed it to my face and kissed her for the last time.

I want her near me, to feel her cheek pressed against mine and her arms wrapped around me squeezing me like she did, and say “Mom, I love you. I’m so glad you’re my mom.” Or when she hugged John and I and said “I’m so glad you’re my parents.” We strove to give Brianna roots and wings, we just never thought she’d fly so high, she would soar beyond our reach. My dearest darling, we will miss you forever and can’t wait for the day when we can be together again to laugh, share, hold each other and say I love you.

Brianna has gone into the light and is now free.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

You are Welcome to Say Goodbye to Brianna on June 21 at 11 am

Brianna Lauren Grant
Jan. 12, 1990 - June 15, 2007

Beloved Daughter of
Iva and John Wilcox
and James Grant and
Mary O'Callaghan

We said our goodbyes to Brianna yesterday. Her spirit was already gone, so she was taken off the ventilator. Her heart quietly stopped. I held her hand to my cheek, stroked her brow and kissed her forehead. John and Trevor told her they loved her. Her family surrounded her, held her and wept softly. I love you forever my darling, and I will see you again.

Funeral Services will be held:
Thursday, June 21, 2007
11 a.m. and a Wake will immediately follow

St. Timothy's Episcopal Church
1550 Diablo Road, Danville, CA
(925) 837-4993

Donations may be sent in Brianna's memory to the National Art Honor Society at Monte Vista High School, 825 Hartz Way, Danville, CA 94526.