Sharpie on cardboard cereal box and yarn, wrapped in tin foil

Ewan’s art is on exhibition from September 1-30, 2019

It is September. It is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It is back-to-school, the start of fall and Ewan’s birthday month. He turns ten on September 22, 2019. We’ll be celebrating with chocolate cake and chocolate milk. For a second year, we will celebrate without him.

Early on the morning of September 1, 2019, a friend helped me install his art on the community room walls at Convivial Cafe. It was more emotional than I expected. I couldn’t tell if I cried from pride or sadness. I have dragged my heels in writing his artist statement and artwork descriptions. In this part of the endeavor, the source of pain is obvious – the burden of bearing his meaning. It would be so much easier if he were here to tell me what to write.

He would be embarrassed to look back at the Lill Family Portrait he markered in 2016. He misspelled Torin’s name. It reads, ‘Torene’. He was only six, but even then Ewan was a slight perfectionist; he wanted to get things right.

Like the time when he was the ring bearer at Katharine’s wedding. It was a surprisingly sunny, unseasonably warm Chicago day, that December 16, 2017. He was so nervous. He kept asking me, “Mom, what am I supposed to do?”

“Walk down the aisle with a ring on a pillow. You will know what to do when the time comes.” The job seemed self-explanatory to me: bear a ring; ring bearer. Though it’s not a job I’ve ever had.

“But Mom, what if I trip? What if I lose the ring?” he fretted.

“You won’t trip. Besides, the ring will be tied to the pillow. It will be okay.”

Still, he worried as if, not just the union of these beloved friends, but a flawless launching into the future was resting on his shoulders. Looking back, it makes complete sense. There was no instruction manual for the job. Other than a hurried run-through the night before, where he was one of many ensemble members, had no lines and received zero cues from the director, Ewan would be improvising in front of a crowded room of mostly strangers while carrying the most valuable symbols of love: tiny, shiny, golden rings. All this pressure while wearing new shoes. Of course, he was worried about tripping.

Finally, the day arrived. Dressed in black lacquered oxfords and new suit and tie, Ewan escorted the flower girl down the aisle while bearing the rings. The vision of future generations drew oohs and aahs and warmed our hearts. He handed off the pillowed prized possessions to the best man like they were radioactive hot potatoes. Then, Ewan zipped in place, next to me, on the hard church pew. He sighed with relief and asked, “How did I do?”

“Perfect,” I whispered, and his shoulders relaxed.