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Posts tagged ‘loss’

8am Wake-up Call

It’s not so much the fact of my brother-in-law’s tragic end that traumatises me as the way I heard the news. It’s the moment that will always haunt me, continues to haunt me even now, 10 months later.

It was the Saturday before Christmas, and there was no more work until after the season itself. I had seen my dear friend Millie the night before, and had gone to bed full of excitement for the season to come. My partner and I had been so enamoured by the romance that comes so easily with the festive season that we fell asleep with Christmas lights still twinkling and the soft choral chants of a cloister monastery singing medieval carols playing quietly on my iPod. And it was to this Elysium of festive tranquility that we awoke that morning, full of happiness for the season to come.

We lay in bed, discussing what we would do that day. How we would finish wrapping presents and go out to savour the spirit of London at Christmas before leaving town. Dominik was checking Facebook, reading my sister’s last message posted online – she too had been wrapping presents till late, waiting for her 3 babies to fall asleep so as not to spoil the surprise.

But 2 minutes later all that was to change. I’ll never forget it. The landline ringing at 8am exactly. It was my family’s number on the caller display. I thought it was a bit early this call, but answered nonetheless, quite innocent of what was to come.

The tone of my mother’s voice told me immediately that something was wrong. Almost gasping for breath, struggling to annunciate between tears, she said the words that have come to haunt me ever since. Nick, she sobbed, something dreadful has happened. Neri was killed in the night.

8am Wake-up Call (2013 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

8am Wake-up Call (2013 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

At that moment my world, tangibly, perceptibly, collapsed around me. The hopes and the spirit, the festive joy of Christmas crumbled. All happiness was gone, replaced only by the unquenchable burden of grief.

As the day proceeded and the shock began to take hold, we did not know what to do but to go out. Wandering around the town, London looked the same as it had the days and weeks before. Seeing a city full of the festive spirit, but this time like watching the whole scene unfurl in slow motion. It was as though we were on the outside of a gift shop called Christmas looking in, everyone inside enjoying the warmth and happiness of the season, but our emotions paralysed by the grief which had drowned our souls, as we stood outside in the cold.

It was the moment when Christmas had ended. Along with so much else. And in this second work, created impulsively in the aftermath of my brother in law’s inquest two weeks ago, I paint the moment when joy, for our family, crumbled before our very eyes. In the simple symbol of a falling Christmas tree, I have attempted to demonstrate how the happiness of Christmas departed us, and our world literally fell apart; the striking colours representing the irony of loss at this, the happiest of all seasons; the only gift under our tree being the ribbon-wrapped car which caused this tragic end. A fate to which we were inescapably tied from that point onwards.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Return Journey

A little over 10 months ago, just 3 days before Christmas in fact, my brother-in-law was killed in a tragic road traffic accident. It was a tragedy whose catastrophic effects were augmented by the life-changing effect on his three little boys – 2 year old twins and a 4 year old – who in that sudden cataclysmic moment of disaster lost a father, and by the deep heartbreak of his wife, my sister, who lost her husband after only 8 years of marriage. They say that time is a healer – although there are some things which time can never truly mend. It’s as though time acts as a sticking plaster or band aid, only for its thin protection to be unceremoniously ripped away at certain instances of remembrance, one such being the inquest into his death, which we, as his closest family, attended two weeks ago.

I don’t intend to talk about the inquest – it’s details are too sad for sharing; too grave for the lighter side of the blogosphere in which I like to roam. Yet what I did want to share with you is a painting I made, in immediate response to the hearing, a work which for me sums up the sadness of this death. There may be some who believe that to paint a vision of tragedy somehow lessens or trivialises its impact, but I, like many others, would disagree. For just as some of the world’s most famous paintings have been created in a direct response to, and as catharsis for some of history’s worst obscenities (take for example Picasso’s Guernica, or Goya’s 3rd May 1808), so the process of painting has helped me to respond to the horrors of this family loss, in the same way that painting also enabled me to work through the after-effects of my very serious accident 5 years ago.

Return Journey (2013 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Return Journey (2013 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

The painting I am sharing today, Return Journey, is a simple but poignant image, and one which I could not get out of my head once it had formed in response to the testimony of one of the witnesses at my brother-in-law’s inquest. She described how she and the passengers in her car had seen my brother-in-law out on the roadside, alive, but in great peril and, worried for his safety, had taken the first turning round a roundabout, driven back up the opposite carriageway, and then retraced the route where they had first seen him alive. But on their return journey, they could see him no longer – all that visibly remained of my brother-in-law was a single shoe lying in the middle of the carriageway. He was no longer to be found. What we now know is that in the short time between seeing him alive and returning to the scene, he had been struck by a car, and killed.

It’s for that reason that I could not get the image of that lone shoe out of my head, and in creating this work, I felt some sense of catharsis in reaction to that dreadful, but necessary inquest. It’s an image imbued with the heavy shadow of tragedy, but a painting of which I am proud as an artist, and as a family member, in dedication to my brother-in-law’s memory.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com