Shelli approached me about expressing her love for her boyfriend of six years. He has stood solidly by her while she has battled brain cancer. She told me that she was surprised that even when she dropped to 79 pounds and was practically a skeleton he gave her love. When I heard this my heart melted.
We talked in her bright apartment about how she used to think she knew what unconditional love was — and how her boyfriend used to not believe in it. But during her illness he has shown her what real unconditional love is. Now he believes in it and she refers to her cancer as “a blessing.”
One way that Shelli has dealt with her ordeals is through art. She created the painting in the photo for him. In fact, she shared that the concept of this project stirred a lot of art making for her. After seeing the images that had been made already she had trouble sleeping because she was thinking about all the ways she could express her love. She has written “I Love You Because . . .” notes to her family and friends and painted other images around the theme. Doing this clarified her feelings and brought more appreciation. To have that kind of an effect on someone else’s interpersonal relationships moves me profoundly. More than anything, I am honored to be let in to her world and to watch her turn burden into beauty.
Unfortunately, her health and her future are very uncertain as she still has tumors in her brain. Put simply, Shelli is in a fight for her life. Every day she is faced with her own mortality and human frailty. And her graceful response is to love.
Click here to see a portrait of Shelli.
Update: On January 26th, 2009, Shelli passed away. In her final hours she was readÂ â€œI Love You Becauseâ€ phrases her family and friends had created for her. To read more about her story, and see the image her sister created for her, go here.