We lost our shirts in Nicaragua.
We came back with seven barrels,
Three footlockers, and a ‘67 Van.
Few understood why we came back,
And we grew tired of stories unbelieved
That told how we were changed.
Time passed, and in the plant one day
A foreman stopped.
He must have glimpsed some portion of my soul,
For then he talked a long, long, time,
And told me how he lost his shirt in Vietnam.
Paul Lloret, 1982
By all accounts, leaving their mission work was one of the most painful, traumatic experiences of my grandparents’ lives. They had invested every part of themselves in that work and were absolutely broken when it ended. It left them bereft in ways that echoed into their whole lives but that was unnoticed or unappreciated by those around them. I love this poem because it identifies a brief point where two private griefs come together in some mutual understanding.
For my painting, I chose to depict simple, iconic symbols that materially represented the loss. Sometimes the hardest part about losing things is how little we have left, physically, to represent the devastating effects of that loss.