The nurse enters pre-op and notices a picture set on the cover of my friend, Lucy, lying in wait for the anesthesiologist The nurse comes closer and sees the crayon drawing of a knee with yellow light flowing around torn ligaments. Lucy tells the nurse she drew it, and the nurse suggests Lucy take it with her into the operating room. After the successful procedure, the surgeon tells Lucy that the picture inspired him.
Lucy wisely used her creativity to connect with people she needed to trust. By sharing what was in effect a visual prayer, she gave the medical team a chance to see her more fully, feel her anxiety, and grasp her prayer. In this, Lucy played a role in the success of the operation.
Lucy's story is one of many that connect art to healing. Art, as a profoundly human endeavor humanizes us. Isn't becoming more human what healing means? Humane and relational healing brings to mind Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, a cancer specialist and clinical professor. I first learned of Dr. Remen's wisdom through her books, Kitchen Table Wisdom - Stories That Heal and My Grandfather's Blessing.
Later through a chat with an inspiring young couple in medical school, I learned of Dr. Remen's ground-breaking curriculum, "The Healers' Art". In this course medical students study and practice the healing power of relationship. Dr. Remen teaches that between doctor and patient, "It's a human relationship, not a relationship between an expert and a problem." Lucy's art tapped into this truth. Her picture helped establish her medical care in the context of relationship where healing occurs.
Lucy always sparkles with creativity as a professional musician and developing writer. In terms of creative expression, she is least experienced with the visual arts. Nevertheless, she let her wisdom choose the medium that would touch into her power to heal - a simple drawing. I love how crayons can access layers of healing. Healing art is not about technical sophistication.
I expect Lucy to fully heal, but my friend, C. faces long-term health issues. Life is tenuous for her. Near sixty, she has lived ten years with a lung transplant and survived multiple cancers and lung infections. Indomitable, she welcomes a season of new energy after months of just surviving. Her hope? First finish her book about her life as a hospice nurse in Alaska, then resume an old passion: painting with water color.
C's body and soul knows that writing and painting will humanize, energize, even heal her in the way that Dr. Remen defines it: "Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn't you- all of the expectations, all of the beliefs - and becoming who you are."
Spirited women, what reveals who you are better than your art? May you access your power to heal and practice preventive as well as responsive health-care by embracing your art.
Click here to read more of Sue's posts.