My friend CaraLea Robinson Willoughby is an award-winning graphic designer and accomplished equestrian. After many years of illness, her father died in 2013. Like many of our loved ones who have done battle with cancer, he fought valiantly. A weaker-willed man would have died years sooner. CaraLea's original design and written tribute to her dad are a perfect testament to "getting along with grief." They weave pain, gratitude, memory, respect, and reverence into one artistic whole. And in that weaving, there is healing to be found.
You may need to do some enlarging to see all of the copy below.
Buffalo Tracks (Second in a Series)
My father let go of this world on Good Friday, 2013. My vision for this design is as a tribute to him. Buffalo Tracks honors Jim Robinson. The finished print is very pointed and sharp-edged which I think is representational of grief. Emotions are still sharp and painful, yet I feel incredible grace, strength, and the pain of loss is subsiding.
The "spine," which runs down the center of the design is symbolic of the road of life. The points symbolize how many times a person travels off their road to help others. My dad's life was full of these detours. Buffalo "tracks" flank the spine. The buffalo symbolized many powerful attributes: life, the sacred, great strength, abundance, and gratitude. My dad overflowed with each of these attributes. He loved life; he was a spiritual man, who was strong in both mind and body, and he was always grateful. He was abundantly blessed. The zigzag pattern above and below these icons represents lightning--power and speed, both in ample supply during his high school football and track seasons. The outside edges of the design illustrate consistency and the ability to find middle ground between opposites.
Below is a story that ties my Dad to the buffalo. I hope you enjoy it.
When I was a child, my dad would go on business trips. He always brought me a china horse. Dad was a computer salesman with General Electric, and his work took him away from us quite often. The time I got to spend with him usually involved catching footballs, playing basketball, and chasing golf balls with my brothers, not a lot of father-daughter time. So, when it was time to open the suitcase, I was right there. It was special time with Dad to myself. The horse was a bonus.
My room was filled with a colorful herd of every china horse imaginable--Arabians, Quarter Horses, Saddlebreds, Standardbreds, Morgans, Mustangs, even a Clydesdale! There were stallions, mares with foals and yearlings. They were rearing, running, standing and lying down. So many horses from so many sales calls! Then came a trip where Dad decided to bring something different. Eagerly anticipating the next horse, we gently unwrapped a china buffalo. "Why a buffalo?" I promptly asked. Dad said he wanted me to have something different. So with that, the buffalo joined the horse herd--but always stood out from it.
More than 40 years have passed. The china horses are gone. Many were broken and the rest were packed away. I think the remnants of the herd are stabled in the attic of my Mom's house, never straying from where I was raised. They have been replaced with real horses.
The china buffalo? It has been a constant companion as I travel my road. It currently occupies a place on my desk, next to a photograph of Dad at work. I now know that Dad encouraged my individuality, love of life, and my faith. He helped me to become strong--mentally and physically. I have benefited from and appreciate these life-enhancing attributes. Gratitude is never far from my heart. Dad is my buffalo--a symbol of the wonderful, life-enriching with me, my mom, brothers and all who knew him. I am "Something Different." Thank you, Dad.