By Betsy Fisher
Wading into all the “firsts” I never wanted to see.
On the first anniversary, I invited people who would understand – friends who knew Marshal’s love of art, and his creative spirit. They all came.
I had copied several of Marshal’s doodles of incomplete characters and creatures, with some finished for the kids to color. I eagerly watched to see which doodle or drawing each person chose.
“Hey! That looks like Abraham Lincoln! I want to finish that one.”
“Cool…look at this giraffe! I want to color this one!”
“Whoa, what a cool monster!”
“What is this one?! I think it’s some kind of frog.”
The children sat in the kitchen table or on the porch, clutching crayons with great care and the grownups chose doodles and pieces of something larger, saying, “Oh, yes, Marshal would have loved this.”
People smiled as they drew or colored. I found myself smiling, too, even laughing now and then. I walked among them and as I watched them, I felt things I had not felt before, things I could not name.
I had stressed over “what to do” to mark this date, one year later, where ending and beginning would meet. Marshal took ordinary, simple things, and created magic.
Among the many doodles was one of a man-eating plant. A Venus Flytrap like the one from “Little Shop of Horrors” but with a face and personality of its own. It is stretching over and about to swallow up a stick figure. “Oh snap!” says the figure. “Why me?!”
An 8-year-old boy chose that drawing to color. The little hero had miraculously survived cancer as a toddler, and now he was a full-on, healthy, nothing-but-smiling little boy. We met him, and his mother, at Shands, and we grew to know and love them well in the years to follow.
He remembers Marshal a little – his famous fart sounds, character voices, and artistic creations. Their shared love of Mario. He carries his lunch to school today in Marshal’s Mario backpack. He was so excited to get started.
His picture was so colorful and he showed it to me with such pride. I told him more than once just how much Marshal would have liked what he had done with it.
They all seemed to know how important it was to me. They seemed to know Marshal would be there, too. And he was.
As I took it all in, Marshal seemed so strangely present. I felt a different “alive” than I had felt in that first terrible year of grief. He was my smile, the lump in my throat with every hello and goodbye. He was the twinkle in my eye as I saw their love, as I immersed myself in this afternoon.
I hadn’t been sure I could handle the laughter, or making this saddest of days a happy one, somehow. But I could, and it was.
Many of them left their doodles for me to keep or sent pictures after finishing them at home. A friend took them all and made a simple collage, now in my room.
It is love carrying on. It is my proof. Living proof that just as more can be made from these incredible beginnings of doodles and sketches, more can be made from my story with Marshal. Maybe I can move forward, bringing him along with me.
Legacy. Life. Continuity. Connection.
Always and every day.
If you’d like to draw and color with Marshal’s doodles, email Betsy at firstname.lastname@example.org.