Last week I painted a mural at Oakland Children’s Hospital in the NICU conference room. As with so many of my murals, the gifts that I receive from my paintings through the people I meet are just as valuable as the gift I leave behind. Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Peggy Thomas. Peggy’s life is full. Really full. She currently has seven children from “disrupted adoptions” that she homeschools, a husband recently disabled in a car accident, a grandson with SMARD who is not likely to live past two years old, and piecing it all together with work as a hairdresser. But this dear, dear angel does more acts of kindness before breakfast than I do in a whole month. She is a lightning bolt of grace, full of grounded, loving energy and not shy about breaking her guitar out and sharing songs with the children in the NICU, at a senior care home, and even with me as I painted my mural. Her kids have come a long way under her care, and they all clearly adore her.
When Peggy Thomas and her daughter Danielle were to receive the news of Logan’s condition, the hospital staff brought them into a bleak, windowless conference room to deliver the news. Instead of falling in to self pity, Peggy looked around and said, “This is just awful for me. But I feel even worse for my daughter and everyone else dealing with a child in a crisis has to grapple with this information and decisions in such a bleak place”. Peggy took it upon herself to make a difference where she could: she started a fundraising campaign, dealt with hospital beaurocracy, and worked closely with me to develop the vision of beauty she wanted to bring to the bleak NICU conference room. The mural was a huge success, and many of the staff stopped by to comment on what a difference it made to the space, and what a difference it would make for the patients families.
My take away was the example Peggy set for me. She was fearless and diligent in focusing her energy to bring light and beauty to where she saw it was needed. It was a true pleasure to meet and work with her.
Here are some additional comments from Peggy’s partner in crime, Cassandra, who helped give the historical perspective to the purpose of the hospital and how we could incorporate that into the mural:
“I think the mural is exquisite and perfect. You know I have had to really contain myself and not see continuous connections between my miraculous time in Florence at the Ospedale degli Innocenti and so I was at peace with the removal of the medallions. However, when I saw the mural I nearly cried for a realize that the medallion’s inclusions would have taken away what for me is a profound and mystical bridge between the two faces–you see basically the mural looks exactly like we (in the room) are standing inside the loggia of the Ospedale degli Innocenti and looking out to the sea that connects the two continents. The sea is the beautiful and endless eternity of love that floats out forever from the Piazza Santissima Annunziata…I would have to have you and your family standing beside me in Florence in that Loggia so you would see what I see. Maybe some day that will happen–the odds are very high indeed I shall be spending much of my life in Italy. There is another person who knows the Piazza as well as I do in Florence and he has seen exactly what I have seen in the mural and because he hasn’t met you in person, is more surprised by the connection than I was….”