Shower the People - by Fae Lynn Baudour

To the people who have made a difference.. this is an absolutely true story. 
I feel the need to share it now.

First, let me tell you that I was raised in an extremely abusive household.  This is not to get your sympathy, but to let you know where I've come from.

Anyway, I had very low self-esteem, (something I still struggle with at times) and I hit a very low point in my teen years. In 7th and 8th grades, I had a wonderful teacher named Mary-Jo Thomas.  She was one of the science teachers, and was a favorite among the students.  I loved her. She always had words of encouragement for me that I rarely got at home.  She always welcomed my visits between classes, and let me be involved in special projects if I had a study hall or other free time.  Soon, we became friends outside the school setting.  She found I had an interest in art, and I hadn't known at the time, but she was an extremely talented artist in her own right. Mary-Jo took me to Dover and bought me my first REAL art supplies; a sketch book, some charcoal and special artist quality pencils.  She also encouraged me to get involved in activities like drama and the school paper.  She knew I needed windows and helped me to find them.

I kept in touch with her over the years, something I recently found out that no other of her students really did. I would write to her or call her every now and then, just to touch base with her and let her know where I was and what was going on in my life.  Sometimes it was a year or so between letters but I never forgot Mary-Jo.

In my first marriage, I was not permitted to have my artistic outlet.  It was that way for about ten years.  My first husband would not allow me to work on anything that took my attention away from him.  This was eventually all-encompassing... down to my friends, my job, my choice of clothing, and even what I watched on TV or listened to.

After I got out of that marriage, the first thing I did was to get heavily involved with drama and in my art. I found that the years I had supressed artistically only strengthened my ability to express myself that way (much to my surprise).  I did not have much time for it, but everything I did was worth the time spent.  I contacted Mary-Jo to let her know of the changes in my life and to let her know I was still thinking of her. In 1995, I became further involved with my art.   This was after moving to Louisiana and giving birth to my younger son.  I began really to focus on art and started thinking more and more of Mary-Jo, how I loved her for leading me to this window and how I treasured this escape.

"Sunday Morning", colored pencil, 11 x 14 in

In 1996 I began recieving awards and local recognition for my artwork, and of course I thought of Mary-Jo then too.   She deserved to know that the seed she had planted had taken root and that I was doing things with it that other people could appreciate. I have always held a certain fascination for animals and wildlife.  I chose to be an animal artist because sometimes the truth animals exude is more evident than what you can find in people.   It's the honesty.

Anyway, I had written to Mary-Jo in December that year, we exchanged cards.  I told her things were going well, blah blah blah.. hope to see you next time I am in Delaware, give the family my regards, all that.

Then in April of '97, I went to see a fabulous exhibit here in Shreveport.  Animals in Art, it was called.  I noticed the show's next (and final) stop would be in Wilmington, Delaware, where Mary-Jo lived.  Oh, she HAD to see this work!  I sat down and wrote her a long overdue the window had reopened after all the years of being closed... and how I loved that I had it.  I thanked her, because the outlet art has provided for my frustrations has been an invaluable one.  I asked her to please catch the show when it got there in June, and that this is the quality I am striving
for in my own work.

I tell you the truth here with tears running down my face as I write this....
The same day that letter went out, as the postman picked that one up, he dropped this one off to me:

June 2, 1997

Dear Fae,

As I was going through a stack of old correspondence, I found your Dec. 25th letter together with photographs of you, your husband, and your two sons.  Apparently, Mary-Jo had just informed you of the death of (another teacher I had known and cared for) and you expressed your sorrow and concerns about his wife.

As you may or may not know, Mary-Jo was diagnosed last summer with cancer, and went through a long, difficult and futile process of radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.   She was suffering with the knowledge that her doctors regarded her as terminal, and, on April 25th, she passed away; at
last in peace.  It is very difficult for me to realize that she is gone-- during her life she was always enthusiastic and a fighter to the end.  She led a full life and I and the kids will always have the example she set to guide us. Mary-Jo was 56, and her life went by too quickly.

I am in the process of photographing all of her artwork (she left us more than 100 watercolors, oils, pastels, and charcoal/pencil drawings.)  Once I am done, I will make a number of copies and send you one to look at for a time.  We are all proud of what she did.

Your friendship was precious to her.  Thanks for being a part of her lfie.

Ron Thomas

Oh, it still hurts to read this.  If I had known she were ill, I would have written that letter sooner. I would have told her I loved her.  I would have made sure she knew, without a doubt, that she MADE A DIFFERENCE.

It was too late to tell Mary-Jo.  With the letter already on the way, I called Ron and left a message on his machine.  I told him tearfully that I had just sent a letter and asked him to receive it.

Now I have a framed photograph of Mary-Jo in my studio... it reminds me to be thankful for the windows in life, and for the beautiful people we are blessed to encounter who make such a difference.  I also have an original watercolor hanging proudly in my home.

Don't make the same mistake I did.  Reach out and tell the special people in your life how much you love and appreciate them, before it's too late.

Thanks for making a difference. You do. I love you for it.
Your friend always,
Fae Lynn

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