I remember my sister Jill telling me she had a particular affinity for dragonflies, but I couldn’t recall why. In advance of her birthday, I researched dragonflies online and was amazed to discover there are over 3,000 existing species of true dragonflies, with another 2,000 or so damselflies (related to dragonflies but smaller with slimmer bodies). How would I ever pick which one to paint?

I experimented with several different versions before I found one that felt just right. I decided to start with a wet-on-wet application of Viridian on the wings before dropping in dots of Prussian Blue. I left the upper edges of both sets of wings unpainted until the rest of the wings had dried, then applied a wet-on-dry light layer of Yellow Ochre. I used Payne’s Gray interspersed with Prussian Blue for the segmented body and head. Then came the really hard part: I used my thinnest brush tip to carefully paint the delicate patterns on the wings. The end result was something that looked to me like a henna design most commonly found in India.

I immediately ordered prints of this new card for the website but gave an original painting to my sister for her birthday. She told me she loved it, and sent a picture of it displayed in her office alongside the “Dragonfly Story.” I had never heard of this story before, and was amazed when I found out it is often used by hospice workers to help families accept the concept of life and death. A friend of my sister’s sent this to Jill after our mother passed, and I have included it here for you:

Once, in a little pond, in the muddy water under the lily pads, there lived a little water beetle in a community of water beetles. They lived a simple and comfortable life in the pond. Once in a while, sadness would come to the community when one of their fellow beetles would climb the stem of a lily pad and would never be seen again. They knew when this happened; their friend was dead, gone forever. Then, one day, one little water beetle felt an irresistible urge to climb up that stem. However, he was determined that he would not leave forever. He would come back and tell his friends what he had found at the top. When he reached the top and climbed out of the water onto the surface of the lily pad, he was so tired, and the sun felt so warm, that he decided he must take a nap. As he slept, his body changed and when he woke up, he had turned into a beautiful blue-tailed dragonfly with broad wings and a slender body designed for flying. So, fly he did! And, as he soared he saw the beauty of a whole new world and a far superior way of life to what he had never known existed. Then he remembered his beetle friends and how they were thinking by now he was dead. He wanted to go back to tell them, and explain to them that he was now more alive than he had ever been before.

His life had been fulfilled rather than ended. But, his new body would not go down into the water. He could not get back to tell his friends the good news. Then he understood that their time would come, when they, too, would know what he now knew. So, he raised his wings and flew off into his joyous new life.

I recently sent this dragonfly card and story to a dear friend whose husband has entered hospice care. She let me know she had received the card and would be sharing it with her husband when the time felt right. It can be so hard to know what to say or do in these difficult situations; maybe a blue-tailed dragonfly card with a heartfelt note will help you and your loved ones find some peace of mind.

I’m thinking of you, Mom. (Photo and inspirational credit to Jill Milliken)

Mom and Carol
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