“Si no me quieren en vida, cuando muera no me llores”
(If you don’t love me in life, don’t cry for me when I die)
- sung by hector lavoe, written by Rubén Blades
This portrait of my brother and I is one of my favorites because I decided to paint this tribute to him just because I appreciated him so much and I wanted to show it. I painted it in April of 2003 for an exhibit I was doing at Terraza in Elmhurst, Queens where I was living at the time and where my husband had grown up. I didn’t tell my brother I was painting it so he would be surprised when he saw it. It was based on a favorite family snapshot of him and I. I still remember those tiny boxing gloves that I used to love playing with and those satin blue shorts that I loved to wear with my roller skates during block parties on Second Street where we lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
So on the day of the opening I was late, as usual. My brother, as usual, was the first to my events. He arrived with my mother who told me his eyes teared up when he saw it.
For years this painting hung in his apartment. The painting took on new meaning when he was diagnosed with cancer and I wanted to be at every appointment, having his back during that long fight. When we organized a fundraiser for him in preparation for an allogeneic stem cell transplant, we used this image on the flyer. Though the funds were raised, the preparatory treatment was not successful and he could not move forward with the transplant.
Years after his passing, when I was packing my belongings for my move to Puerto Rico, I came across a stack of postcards promoting that exhibition. When I read the date on the card, I was shocked. The opening reception, the day my brother saw this painted tribute, was April 27th, 2003. My brother died exactly 7 years to that day: April 27, 2010.
I now have this painting here with me in Puerto Rico. It is a daily reminder of the strength and light I generated and continue to generate from this bond with my brother, but a reminder to love and to express to our loved ones how much they mean to us when we still have them here. We never know when we will have to separate. We will never know the last day of our loved ones, or our own last day on this earth. So lets be present in each moment and grateful for the loved ones in our lives. Let’s express that gratitude not only in our hearts but openly to them. Let someone know you love them. Let someone know how much you appreciate them for making you feel loved.
"Portrait of the Artist and Her brother in Warrior Training Camp" 2003
Acrylic on canvas,
30” x 24”