A short while ago I painted a custom Pet Portrait called “Angel” on reclaimed pine board for a client and she has kindly allowed me to share her heartfelt story on my blog.
A little calf lives in my chest. Well, actually, the valve of a little calf’s heart lives in my chest. And I thank the precious little calf every day for giving me life after my valve began to fail and the calf’s valve was transplanted into my heart.
A few years ago I learned that I had a heart valve problem called aortic stenosis. It’s when the aortic valve becomes hardened and narrows which makes pumping the blood through increasingly harder. Eventually, the valve must be replaced or it would rupture and likely cause death. As my cardiologist said “it’s not if, it’s when.” As the stenosis progressed it made sense to me to do that. At age 70 and otherwise healthy I figured that was a no brainer.
In talking to my thoracic surgeon I learned that there are three types of valves that are used for this procedure. One is an artificial valve that is inserted vascularly with no open heart surgery required, but this was not indicated in my condition. The other types of valves used are either from a pig (porcine) or a calf (bovine). “Wait,” I said. That means a calf or a pig must be sacrificed for me. I am a strict vegan – have been for about 15 years on top of another 25 years of being vegetarian. In other words, I have not eaten an animal in almost half a century and I wasn’t excited about killing an animal now. This was a horrible dilemma for me.
The surgeon said the bovine valve would be the right choice for the needs of my body. So there I was. How was I to square this with my strongly held personal beliefs of not killing animals? If I did not have the surgery I would likely die within a couple of years. If I did have the surgery, an animal would have to die to save me. Many people would say this was an easy answer – just do it – animals are killed every day for humans’ food and other uses but for me it was not that easy.
I meditated on it, discussed it with several people from my Zen meditation group and other close friends I consider connected to the universe in an intensely spiritual way. One said that this calf would be honored to live within me as a way of thanking me for saving so many other animals over the years and living a lifestyle where I consider the well being of animals every day. Another said that this calf would be honored to come to live on earth in the body of a gentle human and experience a new life in this way.
After much soul-searching, in the end, I concluded that I would agree to the bovine valve and just over a year ago I had the open heart surgery to replace my damaged valve. But I wanted to be sure that I remembered the little calf each day. I named the calf Angel because it is a gender neutral name and I have no idea if my calf was a boy or girl. I just know that it is a very important being to me.
I wanted a tangible way of remembering Angel and had been looking for a card or a small art piece of a beautiful little calf with wings. It had to be just the right representation, but for some months I had no luck in fulfilling my vision. But when I saw talented Kathy Crabbe’s newest art genre of paintings on recycled pine I commissioned her to paint Angel on a 4” by 4” piece and it turned out to be just what I had envisioned. Kathy had me go over dozens of pictures of calves and I picked several that I liked one thing or another about and she came up with what you see here. Angel has a place not only in my chest but also on my sideboard where I see the painting each day and remember that Angel lives in me so I can enjoy a precious longer life.
Kathy, thank you for the beautiful job – you caught my vision and brought Angel to life for me. ~ Barbara, Orange County, California
To order a custom Pet Portrait by Kathy Crabbe please click here.
About Kathy Crabbe
Kathy Crabbe is a Creative Soul Guide, artist, author and educator who has devoted her life to exploring spirituality and creativity with passion and integrity. Kathy empowers soul-seekers to live the life of their dreams through online resources, inspirational art, eClasses, eBooks, and Creative Soul Sessions infused with a rich background in the arts.