top of page
Yvonne and Rick Rose.jpg


"This rose has shifted my healing journey from darkness, hopelessness and despair to wanting to find the beauty in everything. To face life with positivity and hope even when you have the darkest of days. To find new life and light in the most dire of circumstances. To share that joy, hope and love with others so they know they too can begin to heal."

My Story

This summer will mark the 5th year of my son's passing. August 5th is his "Angel Day" or "Angelversary" as I call it. I can hardly believe it's been 5 years already. It seems like yesterday that I got the call that brought me to my knees and changed my life forever. I cannot put into words the darkness and devastation I felt at that moment. I wanted to die with him. I couldn't imagine my life without him. I could not and would not believe he was gone. I was hysterical and inconsolable. My life and my world were shattered in a split second. 

My son, Rick was so full of life...Proudly serving in the Navy hoping to finish out his 20 years. He had a strong work ethic, always leading by example. He loved spending time with his family, playing and being silly with his kids. He was a wonderful father, husband, son and brother with a great sense of humor and wit. He was kind and gentle, always willing to lend a hand.

While serving in the Navy he suffered a TBI. He had PTSD. From the TBI he was also diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and a mild form of dementia. With all of these things working against him it became increasingly difficult for him to cope with everyday life. He wanted to do good at work, he wanted to be a good husband and father but everything was becoming a struggle for him. There were a couple of times where he said in front of his kids, "everyone would be better off without me" and another time he called the White House line and said, "did you know that 22 veterans kill themselves every day?" He was losing his grip on reality and I was so worried and scared for him. He had agreed to move home to be near family. I was so happy he was going to be closer to us. I wanted to do whatever I needed to do to help save him. In the meantime I Face Timed him every chance I had to keep that line of communication open. I wanted him to know that I loved him and would always be there for him. That everything would be ok. I talked to him a few times while they were driving out to Oregon. Sometimes he would be the beautiful, sensitive boy I remembered so well and other times he would be in a manic state where he was all over the place and I didn't understand him. I was so scared that we were losing him. 

While on his way home to Oregon he suffered a psychotic episode which ultimately ended his life. It was classified as "suspected" suicide. It was so tragic and traumatic and I ask myself every day..."is there something I could've said or done to save him?" I can't seem to get that question out of my head.

My grief was so dark and deep... an aching in my heart I had never felt before. It felt like my heart had ripped out and shattered into a million pieces. I had suffered loss...both my parents but this was different. I was scared and I felt helpless. I didn't want to talk to anyone. 

I felt like I was drowning in my grief and there was no way out. I needed help navigating through this darkness. I couldn't give up. I had my daughter and my son's kids to think about. We were all grieving and needed each other and I needed to be strong for them. I was looking for some kind of support group for myself and the kids. I found a TAPS care group meeting and thought it might be a good place to start.

Through the TAPS group I met Heather, a therapist from the La Jolla VA. She introduced me to Ian and his Ash Art projects. I had never heard of anything like this before. I was intrigued and wanted to hear more about it. I thought it was such a beautiful, creative way to memorialize someone you loved and lost.

As soon as I heard about the ash portraits I knew I wanted to be a part of it and I wanted Rick to be a part of it. I knew he would think this was the coolest thing ever. He was an artist, always drawing. He had a beautiful mind....weird and quirky. He kept a mini journal in his pocket at all times. Something always seemed to inspire him and he would put it down in words or drawings. I will never forget the moment I met Ian and his family at their home to give him my son's ashes. I felt comfortable and at peace and knew this was the right thing to do. I can't quite explain it but it was a profound moment...sort of an "out of body experience." I felt Rick's presence there with us. 

When Ian presented me with the portrait of my son I had no words. There he was looking at me with the most wonderful smile on his face. I remember that smile so well. It looked exactly like I remembered him. I do not share my feelings easily or openly so I just remember standing there kind of frozen and in awe of what Ian had just created for me. A deeply personal and beautiful gift. At the time I didn't know Ian had some of Rick's ashes left. The next time I saw him he had another gift for me. It was a beautiful rose titled, "Rick's Rose" This was the beginning of his "ash rose" series. When he gave it to me he used the analogy of taking something broken and turning it into something beautiful. It's a Japanese art form called, "Kintsugi." After that he gave me one more drawing he had done with the ashes. It was a portrait of me titled, "Rick and Yvonne." These gifts are deeply personal, thoughtful and priceless to me.

When I look at these works of art I feel my son close to me. I see him smiling at me...maybe even saying, "I'm ok mum!" The rose specifically signifies a new beginning...something beautiful rising out of the ashes and darkness. It signifies HOPE for me. It will continue to grow and have new blossoms. It brings me comfort. It will bring new life and light into my world. It will bring healing.

Having this beautiful artwork is a way for me to share with others that healing is possible. Surviving a devastating loss is possible. If we can show people that this beautiful example of art came from the darkest moment of our lives then we can show them they can begin to heal too. Telling my son's story is important. Bringing awareness to suicide is important. If we can share the darkness and at the same time share the hope that this rose brings I think we can make an impact.

This process and these works of art continue to remind me that there is always hope. We must look for the light in the darkest moments of our life if we are to survive. Our healing journey and what we choose to do with it determines our survival.

When I look at the rose made from Rick's ashes I feel a sense of peace and hope. An incredible work of art literally coming from his body and pain and at the same time so beautiful to look at. It's profound...It's LOVE!

This rose...these works of art have shifted my healing journey from darkness, hopelessness and despair to wanting to find the beauty in everything. To face life with positivity and hope even when you have the darkest of days. To find new life and light in the most dire of circumstances. To share that joy, hope and love with others so they know they too can begin to heal.

I can never thank Ian enough for what he has done for me. There is no price on such a gift. I am excited to share my experience with the ash art in hopes of helping others on their grief journey. I feel in a sense my boy is right there with me speaking to them...showing them that healing is possible if we open our eyes and our hearts!

bottom of page