It’s because of my Mom I always have a smile on my face. She taught me to always think positively and to be helpful toward others. Most importantly how to love. – Elaine Nyblade-Scholl

Russ and Kim and one of their daughters, Kyra, moved down to central Florida when I was in college, so I didn’t see them as much as my family that lived in Orlando (I was in Gainesville), but they were always there when I came down for holidays and birthdays. Russ is my mom’s cousin. His mother and my mom’s mother are sisters. Both women had lots of kids and then their kids had lots of kids and now 60+ years later, our families are both huge.

Somehow both women managed to keep their children and grandchildren close and joyful, creating a web of extended family that is sprawling but also loving, welcoming, warm, generous and – perhaps most amazing of all – connected, especially when we are close geographically. For instance when my cousin Julia moved from Florida to Pennsylvania she spent a lot of time with our parents’ cousins (our first cousins, once removed) and Russ’ parents (our great aunt and uncle). Now that I am in Toronto, I have made a couple trips to our great aunt and uncle’s family cottage in New York. And I think that when Russ and Kim and Kyra moved down south, our family also opened their doors and hearts to them.

The family connections may seem complicated but no matter how far genetically removed, we are still family. This is even more true with the in-laws we welcome into our lives who become no more blood-related but are completely immoveable in our hearts. They are the best friends of our brothers and sisters, the moms and dads of our nieces and nephews, and over all the time we spend together at family functions they become our friends-for-life too.

Today I want to write about Kim, Russ’s wife. She died last week, leaving a lot of people who love her behind. Nancy Meade Morell (Kim’s big sister) wrote:

Kim, was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer last December. It was only this past summer the cancer was confirmed as Mesothelioma. She, as an informed Hospice Nurse, chose “Quality over Quantity” and declined chemo or radiation at this late stage. She has lived with so much pain, however, and at this point chose to admit to In-patient Hospice House. What a privilege and honor to be here with her as she makes her winding journey to be with our dear Lord and Savior.

I’m not religious but I have great respect and admiration for those who are, and I am glad that faith brings peace to her family and that it brought peace to her in her final hours. Kim deserved it. She was always the one to make everybody feel welcome, to speak to the person in the corner, to ask questions in a lovely way that made you feel interesting and cared for. She had a talent for people.

It is a tragedy when someone so warm and kind leaves us, so I want to honor the memory of Kim by writing about the time (only 2.5 years ago) I painted her portrait.

***

Kim was number 15, after my mom and before my aunt Lynn. I painted everyone in my family’s portrait that March, 30 paintings in a month. Each one was done from a live sitting lasting about an hour or two. Kim’s lasted exactly an hour, which I know because I recorded the painting’s progress.

Kim arrived at my grandma’s house wearing lots of makeup, dangly earrings, perfume and a nice top. She looked very well put together, which felt to me like symptoms of being uncomfortable with the whole idea of this project, but she never let on that she was anything but eager to get painted. Instead she let conversation carry us through the experience like a heavy current.

In our hour together we talked about everything under the sun. Meeting and marrying her husband Russ, Russ’s sister Becky, Kim’s first trip to Florida and meeting many of my family members for the first time, my step-dad’s recent illness, diabetes, health and wellness, my dad’s radio show, our favorite wines, diet and exercise, nursing, my name and Scottish heritage, what it was like in Canada, common-law marriage, gay marriage, camping, her family, familial likeness, the Appalachian trail, London, my recent engagement, and so much more.

The thing I remember most about the actual painting was her piercing blue eyes. I didn’t feel I could do them justice with paint. But still I struggled on. She was a perfect model, moving nothing but her mouth to speak, staying focused on one object in the corner of the room.

At the end of the session I said, “Well Kim, it’s not perfect but I think I’m happy with it,” and she said, “Well that’s okay ’cause I’m not perfect either!”

Kim-Nyblade-full

***

Here’s a poem her daughter Elaine shared on Facebook the other day, one Kim had chosen for her ‘Celebration of Life’ service this Saturday. Sadly I won’t be able to attend, but I hope my family knows my heart is with them.

“Afterglow”

I’d like the memory of me 

to be a happy one.

I’d like to leave an afterglow 

of smiles when life is done.



I’d like to leave an echo 

whispering softly down the ways,

Of happy times and laughing times

and bright and sunny days.



I’d like the tears of those who grieve,

to dry before the sun

Of happy memories that I leave

When life is done.

― Carol Mirkel

Painting Kim’s portrait is definitely a happy memory for me. She was such a wonderful lady. Feeling very blessed to be able to share this little piece of her here.