A Painting Worth a Thousand Words
Henri Nouwen once said, "A friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not healing, not curing- that is a friend who cares." To Carol Moran, her sister-in-law Kristen Dillon was this friend.
It all started in Maryland in August, 2009 at two in the afternoon. Carol was riding with her 21 year-old daughter, Alyssia, when a driver, going the opposite direction, came across the yellow line and hit them head on. The ambulance rushed to the scene, but for Alyssia, they were too late. Alyssia died before she could get to the hospital, and Carol had broken every bone from her waist down, leaving her wheelchair bound. In a matter of seconds, Carol's whole world was turned upside down.
Carol was released after a month in the hospital, and her first instinct was to get as far away as possible. Out of nine brothers and sisters, Carol chose to come to Hilton Head to stay with her older brother, Matt and his wife Kristen. "She needed to get away from everything that reminded her [of the accident]," said Kristen. "I had a flexible schedule so I would be able to spend time with her, plus we had an elevator, so it worked out best for her to come here."
For the next eight weeks Carol and Kristen spent their time shopping, going to physical therapy appointments and sitting and talking with each other. On one visit to Carol's physical therapist, they were sitting in the waiting room, flipping through magazines, when they came across the August issue of Pink. The picture on the cover was a painting by Vicky Evans of two women sitting together on the beach talking. "We looked at that painting and knew it symbolized everything we were going through in one simple picture," said Kristen.
To Kristen and Carol, the aspect of the painting they related to the most was the way the women sat together, completely focused on each other. "Because she couldn't walk, we spent hours just sitting together and talking- not always about what she was going through, but a lot of the time," Kristen recalled. "My kids spent a lot of time with her as well- she did my daughter's hair and helped with their homework. Even the dog became her best friend. For that short time she really became part of our family."
After Carol left, Kristen couldn't get the painting out of her head. A few weeks later she got in touch with Vicky to see about purchasing the picture as a surprise for Carol. The women met at Starbucks and Kristen shared the story with Vicky. Vicky had painted the painting ten years ago, but had never given it a name. After meeting with Kristen she was inspired by her story, and decided to name it "Sisters".
"I had gone back and forth on what to name it- I thought about calling it "A Day at the Beach," but it didn't seem to fit," said Vicky. "After meeting with Kristen I had no doubt it had to be 'Sisters'. It means so much to me that my work meant so much to them."
In December, Carol returned to visit, and walked through the door proudly. She had healed to almost 90% of what she was before the accident- a recovery that the doctors call nothing short of miraculous. Kristen surprised her with the painting, and the two sisters shared a tearful reminiscence of the time they had spent together.
Carol is back in Maryland now, and will be starting back to work any day. Both women have a copy of the painting in their houses to remind them of the eight weeks they spent together, learning from each other, listening to each other, and finding hope and comfort in each other's company. "I learned just as much from her as she did being with us," Kristen said. "She is an amazing person to survive something like that with all of the dignity and class that she did. She has given me a new perspective on life, and I would do it again in a heartbeat."