“…And Then There Were 5,” speaks of that one specific moment in time when, at the news of my brother’s suicide, my whole world changed.
“Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest (Psalm 55:6 NKJV). The dove represents my youngest brother, Jay; his departure from the tree of life and his ascension into Heaven. As the dove is received into the hands of our Heavenly Father, the landscape of the earth is forever changed…as was the landscape of our lives in that moment.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12 NASB). All earthly momentum is swept Heavenward, along with the dove. As the dove ascends, he is met by the waiting hands of God who has burst through the skies to receive him. The tears falling to the earth on the right side of the collage belong to God as He wept with us.
On the left side of the collage, there are five mourning doves representing the remaining five siblings who were left behind to grieve and mourn. Each bird sits perched, frozen on the branches of the tree in a suspended moment in time. We appear as inanimate and two-dimensional, representing the shock and disconnection of the trauma. The beak of each bird is bound in speechless silence while our eyes drip wet with tears.
The tail-feathers of each mourning dove are made from something that represents each of our unique personalities. Jeff, the oldest, is represented with the tail-feathers of a world map. Lynne is perched on the branch below him, with her tail-feathers wrapped in a medical narrative. I am perched next to Jeff. My tail-feathers are wrapped in Psalm 27:13-14; a passage given to me by a friend, shortly after Jay’s death. “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord” (NASB).
My younger sister, Carol, is perched closest to the trunk of the tree. Her tail-feathers are wrapped to represent health, beauty, and creation. Nancy, the smallest bird, is perched between Carol and Jeff. Her tail-feathers are wrapped in words to represent her service in public education.
The exaggerated size of the teardrops dominating the left side of the collage represent the immense depth of our grief and the grief of Jay’s many other loved ones and friends. Our collective tears are being swept upward into God’s hands, along with the dove.
P.A. Bragg, 2013 Mixed Media Collage
In terms of the materials used to create this collage, torn paper and tissue are a fitting metaphor for the ravaged heart inside of every person who, like us, has suddenly lost someone they love. In addition, using paper remnants gives voice to God’s redemptive purposes birthed from the shredded fragments of our lives on this side of Heaven.