Journey of Life

Journey of Life

Marrawuy Journeys 

‘Journey of Life’ is a painting that I have done for Palliative Care Australia (PCA). PCA’s mission is to influence, foster and promote the delivery of quality palliative care for all. The brief was to represent life and death but in a bright and comforting way as well as represent PCA. A couple of months later and I have done just that. I have created a piece of artwork that represents the journey of life.

I chose to use a tree as the centre piece of the artwork and have the tree represent a journey. Within the tree are what I consider important life experiences and I sat on this a while trying to determine what is actually important in life but what are some of the hard times that people will experience too. So I started with the positives of life, the good times, and I came up with family, growth, learning, health and love all of which are represented in the bottom panel of the tree. Family is represented at the bottom of the tree by a baby surrounded by their parents, siblings and grandparents as I believe this is one of the earliest experiences most will encounter and family is an important ongoing aspect in life. As that baby grows to a child to a teenage to adulthood, I considered growth, both physical and mentally, to be important to include and have represented this by using a small plant sprouting. Growth goes side by side with learning. You grow your mind as you learn new information which has been represented by a book. Maintaining good health is also important in life and I have represented this by painting a lifeline. The lifeline is also symbolic of life’s ups and downs. The next important aspect in life is to keep healthy through exercise and I have represented this by someone running. And of course there is love. Love is represented by two people forming a heart. This isn’t just about finding the ‘one’ love but all love experienced during life and includes love of family and friends.

Now the top part of the tree only shows half the tree, I have done this as I wanted to represent this next part as not something everyone will necessarily experience but is a possible life experience. And that experience is end of life care provided by PCA. I have represented this possible experience by first using part of PCA’s logo to represent PCA. Then as you move along the branch, I represent their commitment through a commitment knot, then the various providers of palliative care using a person with a medical kit. The last illustration is of a patient with their loved one by their side. The inevitable next phase is transitioning to the afterlife and this is represented by two hands forming hands behind a butterfly. The butterfly is a symbol I like to use to reflect transformation or change and in this painting I have used a butterfly to represent that of one passing to the afterlife. I have represented the afterlife in the white corner with outlines of butterflies to represent those that have already passed.

Going back to the main part of the tree, the next stage that many will experience after a loss is grief which I have represented using an eye with tear droplets. Everyone experiences grief differently but will likely go through, and back through, a number of stages including denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I am all too familiar with what the various stages feel like. Mid-year, I lost my coach quite suddenly to pancreatic cancer and then a couple of months later my Nan unexpectedly passed on my birthday. Whilst both were extremely painful experiences, without them, I may not have understood or even known about this part of my painting. What I have learned is grief never goes away, you just learn to live with it. You carry a 5kg weight around long enough and you’ll get used to the weight of it that you will begin not to notice it. A friend and mentor who too has experienced grief also verified this concept and said that whilst it never goes away, you will transition from days on end of crying and sadness to more days of happiness and less days of sadness. That is what I have found to be true, most of my days are happy ones but I still become overwhelmed by memories and emotion on a regular basis and I expect this to continue but to become less regular after time.

However, what I have also learned from experiencing grief is that I find you experience growth. I have felt that I have grown immensely as a person and value life more than I did six months ago. I am more ambitious and dreaming bigger than I ever have with what I want to achieve because when your times up, it’s up. You are unlikely to have a choice in the matter, so I try to live everyday like it’s my last. So I thought it was important to re-represent growth in the painting but this time by a more developed plant then the earlier version of growth. The last milestone I have represented is opportunities using a compass. Life is full of opportunities and you can’t wait for them to fall into your lap, you need to go searching for them too. I feel, since experiencing grief and my newfound commitment to make the most of my life, I have found myself searching out opportunities instead of waiting for them to be handed to me.

Lastly there are three sections of footprints throughout the two panels and they are representative of a journey through life but also to represent my belief in the circle of life. Because whilst I have experienced two deaths in the last 12 months I have also experienced two births, my cousin and my niece.

Sarah Richards


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Palliative Care Resources

Sarah Richards of Marrawuy Journeys is Dying to Talk