Richard E. Becker, Jr. 2011
Dad passed away on Christmas Eve 2011, and the first anniversary approaches quickly with the daily rising of the sun. The morning light constantly reveals the darkness of this world as I turn on the news and hear of shootings in schools, bomb threats, riots, hate and death. And I am torn as to whether or not I should wish my dad here with us for Christmas or be envious that he is no longer in this hell.
The photo used for this painting, my feeble attempt at a tribute to the man, was taken on a fishing trip by my brother. My sister never liked the picture, but I was drawn to it as his story seemed most evident in his eyes. They spoke of his pain, his fear, his longing to go Home. When I asked my brother if I could use the photo as a reference, he said (being an artist himself), "Make sure you get the eyes right and everything else will fall into place." I know he was referring to perspective -- but it was Dad's eyes that I most wanted to capture in the first place.
As I painted and even now as I linger over the finished work, I find myself relating to the obvious pain and fear etched in Dad's expression. I see myself there, wrestling with images and trials of the past, fears and concerns for the future, a constant struggle to find joy anymore in this world. I picture Daddy at the feet of Jesus now, celebrating Christmas the way it's supposed to be celebrated, and I long to be with him there where there is no suffering, fear or pain. I picture him welcoming the 20 children who were just murdered in their classroom in Connecticut. I can hear him talking to them like Daffy Duck like he used to do when I was little. And they laugh like I used to laugh.
Christmas will be hard this year, and not just for me. So many have had their loved ones ripped from their lives, and all the while Christ is being ripped from the season. People would rather believe in a fat man in a red suit with flying reindeer than in the One Christmas began with. (Which story requires more faith?) What breaks my heart is that they're happy in their hopelessness, drunk in their blindness, oblivious to the real Hell that boils in preparation for their souls. Dad's eyes may be full of pain, but behind that earthly agony lingers a Hope that Heaven awaited him. He knew that. And so do I. That is where I find Joy. That is my Peace. That is my Christmas.
Merry Christmas, Daddy. I'll see you soon.