|Photo by Kelly Edens|
Nancy Asbell never got a traditional obituary in the newspaper, but since she used social media to touch lives with her infectious joy, it seemed fitting to use a more dynamic format. While this might seem like an odd fit for a garden lifestyle blog, at least to new readers, those of you who've stuck around over the last couple of years are well aware of the special link between the Rainforest Garden and Nancy Asbell.
Many of you have become friends with my mother after reading the posts about her here, and a handful of you have even received her colorful hand drawn notecards or pep talks on the phone. Remarkably, other gardeners have even gone out of their ways to send get well cards or generously assist her financially, which is a testament to both the character of those friends and to that of my mother.
Nancy Asbell built her career from home using her gifts as an artist, piano teacher and musician, but what she considered to be her greatest gift was the disease that brought her immense pain and eventually took her life. Lupus, along with its complications and treatments, has torn searing hot wounds all over her body, broken her spine, given her a brain stem stroke that left her severely impaired, ruptured her stomach, robbed her of hair, energy and (eventually) vision, bloated her face and body, and took her ability to walk. For many people this would have been a living hell, but thanks to her faith and inner strength, Nancy Asbell became known for her ever present smile.
Nancy Asbell's Story
To avoid repeating myself and to show the scope of her legacy, I've included links to blog posts that I've written about my mother and listed them in order. Each 'chapter' highlights her resilient joy in the face of trials such as incredible pain, disfigurement, poverty and disability. Long story short, she managed to not only stay happy through each of these obstacles but use them to reach out to others whenever she could.
1. The Garden is Dying and My Mother is Living
2. The Healing Process
3. The World is Your Garden
4. Falling Forward
5. Celebrate the Day
6. A Gardener Grieves
Bonus Blog Post - Gardening Gone Wild: What Our Mothers Taught Us
Nancy's Legacy - Testimonials
|This is one of the hundreds of notecards that Nancy Asbell would draw for friends, family and strangers.|
"I loved the determination that your mother had. She refused to be defined by her illness. She was grateful for every little thing and taught us all to stop and smell the roses and take nothing for granted. She was an amazing individual whose kindness was unreal! When I was quite sick, she sent me special hand drawn cards and then a wonderful small watercolor of a palm tree which she knew I loved. It sits framed on my desk and I think of your mom daily. I was blessed to have known her." - Nina Neville Wormuth
"A couple years ago, Steve, who I was FB friends with, shared some of Nancy Asbell's artwork. I kinda clicked through some more photos and captions, and got caught up in Nancy's story... Nancy's grace notes were always uplifting, and her signature sign-off of "Celebrate the Day" just said so much with those 3 little words. Somehow, in our chats, she must have coaxed a mailing address out of me, because one day, we received one of her sketches. Never asked for, it was just there in the mail one day. Then, last December, towards Christmas, we got another sketch - recently drawn, with a holiday theme. I really am clueless why we were so fortunate to have received these. All I ever did, as far as I know, was wish her a good morning, or thank her for that day's Grace Notes." - Tom Mann
"I remember 'meeting' Nancy thru someone's FB page ... after seeing her artwork. I went to her website and came across her Grace Notes! Immediately, I thought 'what a positive attitude' she had. I began following Nancy's Grace Notes and then sent her a friend request. I have dealt with a multitude of health issues for many years, but I don't dwell on them like I did before Nancy came along! She's such an inspiration ... I know that word defined her!! The 'inappropriate happiness' statement she made still rings in my spirit!! She was so willing (effortlessly, it seemed) and freely giving of art biz advice too! I know I learned quite a bit from her in that area. I don't think it really set in with me as to how big her heart was until you wrote the piece about her joy in the face of such suffering (I think it was last year). I treasure the painting she did for me. I only wish I'd gotten to meet her personally..." - Terri Keller
Links to Nancy's Work
Nancy Asbell's Art
Nancy Asbell's Grace Notes Blog, Part 1
Nancy Asbell's Grace Notes Blog, Part 2
Lupus Awareness and Research Website
An Interview with Nancy Asbell
A Few Quotes from Nancy Asbell
"Your darkest hour will only ever last 60 minutes"
"That which is to burn brightly must be able to endure burning."
"Your success will be measured only in terms of the love
you leave behind when you’re gone."
"This too will pass."
"Breath in, breath out – repeat as necessary."
"Happiness can be found sipping a fine white wine on a balcony overlooking a vineyard in Italy.
Happiness can be found drinking a cup of Folgers Coffee on the back cement stoop of a mobile home.
Happiness can be found in a prison, a woman's shelter, or in ICU units when they tell you that they will have to amputate your legs in the morning and you'll probably not live.
Happiness can be found when a woman can slide out of her own bed, into her wheelchair to live an independent day in her own home and begin to celebrate yet one more day.
I have found happiness...and it has found me. Celebrate the day!"
"I hide my "suffering legs" from view at all times from children and adults. Well unfortunately my sock slipped down a bit and one of my younger student saw only a view of my ankle. "Wow! Why is your leg so black?" Since he is VERY very smart, we quickly discussed my being in a wheel chair and how my blood doesn't know how to run around and play in my body very well, especially in my legs. To which he replied "Wow! If I want to change colors I have to change to a different color of socks" and we just continued our lesson. Do you see why I love my art/music "jobs" so very much?" Never hold any pity for me. I am one of the lucky ones."
To Be Continued...
In the future I plan to continue sharing more blog posts inspired by my mother's compassion and positive attitude, and I also plan on updating this blog post with more quotes as time goes on. If you would like to share your own story or have something to add, please leave a comment in her memory. Thank you!