Words of Encouragement #89: Coloring Book Collages

Collages created by Cathey Merrill to honor and remember her late husband Ron, who was diagnosed with bvFTD

Coloring Book Collages

by Cathey Merrill

Ron and I married when I was 17 and he was 18, and our only child arrived during our first year of marriage. Life in those early years was hard, to say the least. But in retrospect, it was a cakewalk compared to the five years that Ron lived with dementia. Following 50 happy and healthy years together, Ron was diagnosed with behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD). He died two months short of our 57th wedding anniversary, on May 12 of this year.

Life goes on for me, as it must, but the sadness has yet to diminish. I’m trying to learn who I am without my life-long love, partner, husband, and friend by my side. Through that process, I have discovered a few things that are helping me cope, and even begun to enjoy my solitary evenings at home, rather than simply tolerate them.

First, I bought an Echo Dot. Somehow, I don’t feel quite as alone when I can say out loud, “Alexa, play classical guitar” (or whatever I want to hear), and I get an immediate response. Filling the silent void with beautiful music is very calming to me.

Secondly, I’ve found it surprisingly pleasant to sit and page through our old photo albums. I know I’ve had a wonderful life, and though I knew Ron was content when he was healthy, I hadn’t given a lot of thought to how he felt about his life. Our photo memories contain so many smiles and happy times that I am certain he enjoyed his life fully, and this reassurance is comforting to me.

Finally, I’ve found comfort in starting a project that makes me feel like I am spending time with Ron again. I’ve begun creating collages using words from poems he wrote, creatively manipulated photos of him, and coloring book pages he completed during the last six months of his life. Every night we would spend an hour at the table, usually in silence, coloring together in a coloring book. It was a calming activity that Ron enjoyed, and the daily routine we came to rely upon after his diagnosis always included coloring from 6:00-7:00 p.m. Ron didn’t color within the lines, and he would often rub so hard with the crayons that he would wear a hole in the paper. But that didn’t matter, and in his absence I treasure each page.

I am compiling these collages into an art book, and when it is filled I plan to use an online publishing site to create a book that I can give to our son and granddaughters. Keeping Ron’s memory alive and vibrant is very important to me, and this project is one way that I can show my love and respect for him and honor his memory within our family. I hope and trust that this project will become an integral part of my healing process as I continue to work through my grief.


Click here to access the full issue of Help & Hope #89.

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