Two year ago, give or take, I read some poetry and viewed some prints on a friend’s Facebook page. I was immediately drawn to the words on the page–often simple or few–but their impact was powerful, pulling me in and touching my soul.
Through the kindness of my friend, I was introduced to Vince Coates. Anyone who reads this blog or knows me well knows how important soul mates are to me and there was no doubt on our soul mate friendship.
Some souls just connect in ways and on levels we don’t often fully comprehend. You just meet someone for the first time and inside you know it’s not the first time you have felt their presence. A soul mate is a person who is a mirror of yourself, one who appreciates both your weirdness and your sensitivity and passion. One who isn’t shy about calling you out on stuff but equally celebrates your joys and successes.
What made our soul mate connection even more special was that we never met in person. Our entire friendship was based on Facebook comments and messages. That might seem trivial or impossible but let me assure you, I learned more in our two short years, and grew more artistically than with many in-person connections.
We shared many conversations over poetry (his and my attempts) and he very willingly and kindly provided both praise and criticisms. I will never forget the day I sent him a poem I had completed and he told me that he could close his eyes and visualize the story, the feelings, the juxtaposition of phrases that I was trying to convey. He stated how powerful those images were. That was one of most important and special compliments I have ever received.
One day he posted a print on his page and I was mesmerized.
He called it City Lights. While I could see that, it was so much more to me (the glorious thing about art). This may seem a bit crazy but if you sliced open my brain–this is what it would look like: the yellow fun-loving, not setting for mediocrity, craving spontaneity side, my blue organized, compliance/rule driven side, the red powerful, empowered side, the white peace keeping side, and the black–the bit of darkness we all carry inside of us. I told Vince that I would title it “My Chaotic Brain.” After hearing why, he graciously allowed me to retitle the piece. Of course I had to purchase and it hangs in my office where everyday I can view its complexities and I can remember my friend and why I chose it to be the title of my blog.
My last “conversations” with Vince were on 8/11/15 and 9/28/15. They will be forever saved electronically and in my heart. During the first conversation, he told me of his desire to come to Pittsburgh. First, we could actually meet, but more importantly, he wanted to present an art show that would not only showcase his work, but that he would make into a benefit to raise funds for the cause most important to me…ending domestic violence. This was Vince; kind, generous, fun, good-hearted. We were excited to begin the planning phase.
The last conversation–forever seared in my brain. “Karen, I have cancer and am struggling.” With breaking heart I asked how I could help and his response, so true to his heart was “Some gentle prayer and smiles. No anger, I am still smiling.”
On October 9, 2015, Vince slipped away from this earthly life and went home. I never expected a death would hit me this hard, I spent the evening with tears just pouring down my face at the loss of this man, his words, more art. Crying for his family and the loss of a husband, a father a friend. After about three hours, I just started to smile and laugh. Thinking of him saying to knock it off and go live life to the fullest, create art and do good in this life. Make people smile.
His legacy lives on in his family, friends, word and print. His spirit is all around. The next time you see a colorful umbrella (he loved creating Umbrella Projects) or create something crafty, take a minute to remember Vince Coates; my friend and a truly beautiful soul.
Seems most appropriate today to share one of my most favorite poems of his:
When we think of gifts it is natural to think they are things.
Special gifts to represent love and friendship.
These are special, I agree.
Friends, loved ones and acquaintances send such nice messages.
Each one sparking a different memory of how we met, time spent together talking, sharing meals and all around adventures.
Friends and loved ones that trigger memories of places local and around the world.
Recalling a lot of smiles, laughter and dancing.
Everyone in their own beauty and uniqueness have made and still make a difference to me.
Gifts that I do not know how to repay.
Much love to you all.