We never know the impact one solitary life will leave on this world.
In my experience I've seen graveyards full of headstones stacked one on top of another; some ornate and recognizable, some anonymous, with names completely eroded. Gone, are they that lye beneath, who've passed this way, and vanished; taking along with them their stories. I can only imagine what their lives were about.
On occasion I am graced with the opportunity to atone with the life of someone who has passed over into spirit. I am commissioned to create a painting, (usually, a portrait of the person), in order to help bring their story to light, or at least keep it alive for their loved ones to enjoy and remember. This humbles me, and it takes me to depths I've never been before.
Personally, I've developed the philosophy that some of us are on long assignments, and some of us are on short assignments. But whatever, my philosophy makes little or no difference in the lives of those grieving for the loss of a child. I can't even begin to (nor would I want) to imagine the depth of solace a parent experiences when fate takes their child away from them, unexpectedly.
Talia Klein was a bright 13 years of age when her light went out, on December 23, 2007. She was a passenger in a small private plane carrying her father, (author Kim Klein's ex-husband), along with her best friend and classmate. Bad weather ensued, wrong decisions were made, and the plane crashed into the side of a volcano in the country of Panama. All on board, including the pilot, were lost except Talia's best friend.
The event made international headline news; Kim's ex-husband was Michael Klein, internationally known hedge-fund manager, whose wealth included islands off the coast of Panama, which included a fabulous resort on one of them, where he often took his daughter and friends on trips. Talia was their only child.
Details surrounding the crash were sketchy and somewhat hypothetical. It took rescuers three days to navigate the dense jungles of Panama and find the crash site. When they reached the site, the miracle Kim had hoped for had vanished. Talia's best friend lived to tell the story as best she could remember.
In January 2011, Kim asked me if I would consider doing a landscape painting for her, from up on some property once owned by Michael, where they buried the ashes of Michael and Talia. She invited me up to see their final resting place.
She took me to an incredible valley up behind Santa Barbara. It looked like Shangri-la. Climbing up on a high grassy knol I took in the view from this sacred spot. It overlooked the Jesusita trail. There is a bench to sit on and contemplate in the silence.
It was here, after seeing this view, I agreed to create a special painting for Kim; a landscape vista that would be painted at sunset, while standing right over the burial site of Talia and Michael. I would tune in to their spirits, listen to their song and create this painting for Kim to keep with her wherever she lives, for the rest of her days.
Photo: Talia Klein, 13