My firstborn son, Arthur Jack, was born lifeless last month. Named after his great-grandfathers, he was wonderfully made and fully formed at 6lbs 11oz and 20″ long, just five weeks shy of his due date — today. An unknown knot in the umbilical cord had tightened its grip. We have mourned the loss of our beautiful boy deeply, struggling to make sense of the senseless. We will go to him, but he will not return to us.
A few words, insufficient symbols for the thoughts, cannot convey but a fraction of our new reality. A flickering candle in cavernous darkness. We have been blessed to have family and friends — loved ones — who have carefully guarded the light and stoked the fire. Warmth. Tiny rays, their origin hidden from our sight, start to streak through the space. Revealing small, yet steadfast truths. Unveiling the way.
One such revelation has struck me as I squint and strain. We go through this together. No, the death of a child is not experienced by all. Thank God. But each one of us will uniquely experience great sorrows — and joy. Why? How can we even ponder it? Well, we can and we do. We make beliefs, carve ideas, shape answers. We are, after all, creators too.
So, we go through this together. There is some comfort in that. And some despair. My real hope and truth is in the One whose nature we are graciously invited to walk and breath. In and through Him, love and justice are pure and defined.
This may not be your answer. And to be sure, with every answer you are compelled to ask more questions. We cannot know everything in a lifetime. We may say then, we can know nothing! But we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking we’ve raised the white flag.
Your flag will not, will never be, white. Bare. Blank. Your designs may not grace its canvas, but someone’s will. We may not know what to believe, but there are others highly invested in knowing well how to gift beliefs to passive recipients. With eyes and heart open, you will see (more or less readily) subversive pushers right in the middle of any culture. Making designs on your canvas. On your life.
ART is often an attempt at making sense of the senseless. Answering unknowns. Begging questions. Reflecting light. Portraying darkness. Asking, seeking, knocking. Aspiring to perfection. Inspiring through imperfection. Painting the picture with your own hand. Seeing its beauty and its purpose.
I’ve found myself unsure of ART’s purpose in my life. In a world inundated by grabs for attention, surely another attempt at ART isn’t necessary or worth it. But ART’s worth is not in the minds of the masses, but mine. Or yours. And maybe just mine or yours, much of the time. This is not to say that ART never flows into the mainstream (though investors tend to change its course). Rather, that ART is valuable if only affecting one.
But the effect of one can be far-reaching. Whether unbeknownst or unintended. Yes, even in an age of hyper-stimulation and information deluge, there are quiet corners of our minds left unaffected. Your language could be the only one spoken there. It seems this is by a grand and good design.
Arthur’s death seems anything but a grand and good design. Sadly, tragedy can befall us all. Happily, it seems to bring us together. With death comes new life — new love. In a sense, Arthur too was a creator. He created something in us, and inspired the artistic hands of friends and family. Still, it grieves me heavily to know he cannot shape with his own hands, out of his unique soul.
Kelly and I have determined to start a memorial fund in Arthur’s name, and view it as a way that he can continue to contribute. We’d like to raise and direct funds to those creating ART.
To get the ball rolling, I’m releasing a track called “All I Have To Give” and using any and all donations for the song to start the memorial fund. No amount is too small. We haven’t sorted out how to make donations tax deductible yet, but we’re working on it. So if you’d like to contribute something more sizable, just contact me and let me know.
Click below to stream/download.
The image for the track ART was drawn by my good friend and prodigious painter Marc Payzant. It was selected a few weeks prior to Arthur’s funeral. At the time, we had absolutely no reason to think anything would go tragically wrong with the pregnancy. It’s nearly impossible to suggest that this ART is mere coincidence, yet I’m not sure what to make of it. An indication of our interconnectedness? Of God’s hand? It’s remarkable, to say the very least.
To underscore the point, here’s a picture of the casket that I made with the help of some good friends and my brothers the day before the funeral.
If Marc’s drawing was any inspiration, it was deeply subconscious, as I hadn’t viewed it for some time and was simply trying to make something beautiful and fitting with the wood on hand at the shop. The shop is home base for my work at Moore Remodeling, started and run by my friend, Kevin Moore. Building the casket was a cathartic project. Amidst the progressing realness of my son’s death, I tried to approach it as an opportunity to do something for him before he was buried. And then somehow, more gone. We worked into the night, and the finished product is equal parts love and craftsmanship. I’m forever grateful to those involved: Kevin, Derek Whiteman, Peter and Mark Seume, Paul Johnson, Peter McGaughey, and Dylan Sly.
Kelly and I feel blessed to know several gifted artists — painters, craftsmen, writers, photographers, musicians and others. It would be a joy to support independent artists like these who are challenging set minds, igniting imagination and creating beauty. Even the soundtrack for good times.
In addition to track donations, I’ve also talked with friends in a few of KC’s best and beloved bands — The ACBs, Ghosty, and new guys Shy Boys — about doing a fundraising show with me in the next couple months.
My good buddies Konnor Ervin and Kyle Rausch (both from the ACBs) sang backing vocals on “All I Have To Give”. Another pal, Mike Nolte (Ghosty), mixed and mastered the track. The guys in these three bands are producing some of the finest sounding music in this city, or anywhere (as far as my ears tell me). Throw on some headphones and have a listen.
The Shy Boys hope to release next Spring, and I hope it’s sooner than that. It’s been great hanging out with the boys in the studio during tracking and mixing. Good for the soul. And the album’s sounding great.
The idea is that there’s a lot of good, independent ART out there. Even in our own backyard, it’s far too much to mention. And the majority never see a return on their investment. There’s something virtuous in the act of creating — not for money or self-aggrandizement — but because you’ve been given a gift and want to share it.
An ART auction is being considered, possibly in conjunction with the fundraising show. We’re also interested in getting local craftsmen, culinary artists, and others involved. Brainstorming and detail-ironing in progress. We plan on screen-printing “PEACE AND LOVE” t-shirts and directing all proceeds to the fund. They’d look a lot like this:
Truthfully, it’s been tough to get beyond the shock, sorrow and anger after Arthur’s death. But there is peace in the love from others. And we thank God for the confidence we have that Arthur is with Him. Through this memorial fund, if we’re only able to contribute a few canvases, money to record a song, or anything else to an artist that otherwise would’ve been cost prohibitive, we’ll count it a success. Of course, we hope it will be more.
Much love to all of you. Thank you.
Rest in peace and love, Arthur Jack Seume.