For those who read my blog or know me personally, you are aware that in the recent weeks I lost a close friend in a sudden and tragic accident.  It has been an emotional roller coaster. 

I was privileged to be able to attend Francisco Rios' funeral services in Los Angeles and meet his amazing family in person.  It was one of those things you don't want to do.  But you have to do.  When one of my best friends died several years ago in Michigan, I was unable to go to the funeral for financial reasons and I have never really forgiven myself for that.  This time, I decided not to make that mistake again.

Because of the short notice of such events, and the cost of travel, I ended up being the only friend of Francisco's who was able to be there.  His family and friend had so many questions about what his life was like here in Texas and I did my best to tell them what an amazing impact he had made on so many people.  Mostly I felt very lonely there.  There was one person, Francisco's girlfriend Monica, that I had met in person before.  Other than that, everyone was a new acquaintance.  Funerals aren't the best circumstances for social circle development.

I have returned to Houston.  Monica and two of Francisco's sisters came to town the day after I returned.  They wanted to see where the accident had happened, collect his belongings and finish up business on this end.  Not a fun task.

I invited them to an art opening that coincided with their visit so that they could see the painting I had done to honor and memorialize their brother.  I also sent out word to everyone I knew that had known him that they should come and meet the family.  It was important to me for them to know how much love there was for their brother here.

There was a good turnout.  There were a lot of tears.  I'm not the only one who misses him terribly.  In the midst of all of it, the sisters took pictures.  Pictures of everything, pictures of everyone.  They wanted to document and hold on to as much as they could of Francisco's life and impact as possible.

Isn't that normal?  IS that normal?  Thinking about it, I know that I am grasping for memories and images and things that remind me of him.  The ability to call him up on the phone is gone.  I can't hear his voice when I want to.  I can't just hang out with him anymore.  All those little things that were so taken for granted have suddenly become so important. 

At the opening, I presented his sisters, Dalia and Loreta, the canvas with their brother's portrait on it.  An image of the painting had been one of the main images used on a collage at his funeral and I was so honored by that. 

My art is not inexpensive.  But what price could I have ever put on this canvas that would have been worth more than to be looked upon lovingly by Francisco's family.  How do dollars and cents balance against the ability to sooth a family's pain?  A mother's heartbreak at the loss of a child can never be paid off. 

So there comes a time when a work of art transcends its own value.  It becomes more important than the sum of canvas and pigment and the wooden bars it is stretched on.  But art isn't the only thing.  I find myself clinging to things that belonged to Francisco with a strange desperation.  His friends and family are doing it too. 

One friend wore Cisco's bike helmet while he cried.  Another named their new computer in his honor.  And these things are precious.  They are meaningful. 

For myself, I only asked for one thing of Francisco's.  It's a scarf that his girlfriend Monica made for him.  This great long scarf that he would wear when it got cold.  He liked to wrap it around people's necks when they looked cold.  There are pictures of him wearing it and in every one he looks so genuinely happy. 



The scarf is not Francisco.  But it is SOMETHING.  Something that can be felt and held and maybe for a moment provide a moment of solace.  It's a thing that was made out of love from one person to another.  What is the expense of that meaning?

Then again, where is the value of a scarf that can soothe one's soul?  How much is it worth to make you think happy thoughts of someone who is no longer here?  Where is the dollar sign that can make you remember someone fondly for years to come and replace tears with sentiment?



To others it may seem like you are clinging onto a blade of grass in a hurricane.  It may seem pointless and shameful.  But it's not.  Never could be.  Grief runs its own course in each person.  And it's a powerful storm.  A storm with the power to make the simplest things priceless.