Today is my 29th birthday! My whole life I have shared & celebrated this day with my twin brother Daniel.
Daniel and I were both born prematurely at 29-weeks and should have died. My Mom gave us both strong Bible names so that we would live and grow to be healthy men. With being born premature, we have both had our fair share of complications. I ended up not having total vision in my left eye and a lack of smell and taste. Daniel ended up having level four brain damage and doctors told my Mom he would be stuck at the brain function of an eight month old baby. He would never be able to walk, talk, feed himself, use the restroom on his own or live a "normal" life. I know that my parents were devastated by the news of Daniel's condition but my Mom rejoiced over the fact that he was alive…that both babies were alive.
Over the past few years, his health issues have worsened and his body has begun warring against itself. Basic bodily functions like digesting foods have become impossible for him & his body started to shut down. On April 16th of this year, Daniel passed away.
Today is my first birthday without him. My first birthday that will not be shared & celebrated with him.
Since April, I have been trying to figure out exactly how to grieve. I've dreaded this day for the past 5 months because I didn't know how I would feel & what it would be like turning 29 alone. The only thing that has made sense to me is to keep busy. I have hands and they need to be put to work so I don't just sit here & miss Daniel.
As a designer, I wanted to use my hands to create a special piece of art that would represent Daniel's life and give my family something to remember him by. So, I reached out to Wellington Payne over at Shed Labs to see if we could collaborate on this project. Shed Labs is a design and illustration studio based in Greenville, SC & they produce some pretty stellar screen prints.
I was not surprised by Wellington's extreme generosity & willingness to help. He really helped bring this piece to life and I could not have done it without him. Let me walk you through my thoughts behind the design.
In the center of the print is the year 1986. That was the year Daniel and me were born and also the year my parents were married. The background texture is actually Daniel's handprint. With his level of brain damage, he was never able to participate in art projects growing up, so this handprint is from one of the very few art projects he was able to do.
I went with a seafoam French Paper Co. stock for the print because that has always been my Mom's favorite color. She was Daniel's primary caretaker for 28 years and it just seemed fitting to use a color that she would love.
We ended up with an edition of 20 that I numbered and signed and sent out to my remaining brothers. I presented the number one from the edition in a frame for my Mom on her birthday in June and of course, she cried!
Over the past 28 years, my parents sacrificed more than anyone else I've ever seen. They missed out on vacations, dates with each other and time to themselves. They took care of Daniel and every single need he ever had. They did this all the way to the end of his life in the most honorable of ways, never missing a beat and remaining steadfast until the end. Very few people have stood against such a trial with as much courage as my parents and for that, they will forever be my heroes.
We really miss you Daniel. You were such a big part of all of our lives but I know you are much better off now than when you were here on earth. I will always share this day with you & never forget to celebrate the life you had. Happy birthday Daniel.