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Finding Healing After Child Loss in the "Wings of Love"

Updated: Aug 12, 2021

Wings of Love – a painted wood and acrylic sculpture, honoring the spirit of children gone too soon from our lives.

Inspired by a Personal Interview

Tara Gair, mother from Winnipeg, MB, shared her story of child loss after her daughter, was diagnosed with a rare terminal illness at age 4.

Mackenzie was born as a healthy little girl, and early development was normal. Around age 3, her speech wasn’t quite where it was for others her age, and medical professionals began looking into it. Shortly after that, she began having seizures. After many diagnostic approaches, a genetic test finally revealed a diagnosis of Batten disease.

What is Batten Disease?

Mackenzie was diagnosed with Batten disease, a condition caused by a very rare genetic mutation. It prevents the body’s cells from disposing of waste, which then causes cell damage and progressive neurological impairment.

A seemingly normal child can suddenly change and deteriorate quickly – a devastating shock to families. Mobility, sight, and speech are slowly stolen from a once vibrant child.

There is currently no cure for Batten disease. There is ongoing research into ways to improve quality of life and potential treatments. More information can be found through the Batten Disease Support & Research Association at

Living Life to the Fullest

The family sought treatment, they raised awareness of Batten disease, they advocated for the child, but the doctors told them there was nothing that could be done. The best thing they could do in the circumstances was to take their daughter home, live life to the fullest, and love her deeply.

Despite holding onto hope, they painfully endured the heartbreak of witnessing Mackenzie slowly slipping away from them. At the age of 9, Mackenzie passed on, knowing only love and unconditional support in her short life.

Through this time, Tara learned to love deeper, to understand with compassion, and to live for today. She shared her story through the website – a way to connect with others, communicate and update as she was able to, to raise awareness, to document her family’s memories during those years, and to process her inner emotions through journaling.

A mother’s love and connection to her child is one of the most powerful forces. Tara provided 90 years-worth of life and love and fit that into 9 precious years with her daughter.

Life Lives On

Tara wishes that no parent would ever have to go through such a diagnosis or the loss of a child.

Maternal grief continues as a daily presence in her life. Tara finds healing through nature and by immersing herself in the wilderness. Peace trickles into all the painful cracks when hiking through the trees of the forest, listening to the birds sing, and hearing water flow over river rocks. Finding beauty and wonder in the natural surroundings provides a place of grounding and connection to free her mind and come to terms with her daughter’s departure.

Tara and I connected for this inspired art project with a shared connection to nature and awareness of the healing energies to be found in nature. We were both open to the possibilities of exploring creative ways of healing by connecting human nature with wild nature, and discovering what potential there lies in storytelling and art.

Healing Hearts

Tara’s experience was a heart-full story to take on, and one that I could connect to very deeply. The echoes of maternal grief also resonated loudly within my soul. I sensed this project could be a healing journey for both of us.

A lot of personally painful memories bubbled up in the creative process, and at point in creation I had to stop, step away from it for a time, and focus my intentions on my own inner work before I could continue the artistic process.

Once I took all those blocking emotions and thoughts, dealt with them head-on, processed them into a sculpture, I found my own healing and could move forward once again. A weight was lifted, the fog was cleared, and my mind was ready to rejoin with the purpose of connecting Mackenzie’s legacy with her mother, Tara.

From Ashes We Rise

Looking for Inspiration

Inspiration began with a journey to the river. As I traveled the early spring landscape blanketed in bright green new growth, not much else existed for color so early in the season. I continued with open intention to see whatever was presented to me and consider any source of inspiration that might pop up.

Tara had shared how the color purple was a significant reminder of her daughter, so my eyes were scanning for some type of colorful signal.

The entire journey to the river, I saw nothing but green. As I traversed down the bank to the water’s edge, I saw only green. I sat next to the river and thought deeply, felt deeply, spent time with Tara’s story in my heart. As I turned away from the river to begin the journey home, the setting sun shone on a bright and beautiful purple wildflower I had not noticed before. It stopped me and went closer to appreciate it in wonder.

Then I looked about and saw multiple purple flowers all around the area. So many purple flowers! How did I not see you on my way here? How did you just show up right behind me as I sat by the river? I would have had to walk right through them on the pathway I’d walked just minutes before - but for some reason, they’d not been seen until that very moment.

A delicate butterfly’s presence happened to show up along with the purple flowers, and the inner butterflies I felt in those moments confirmed that these subtle signs were all I needed to set the creative wheels turning.

The Inspired Artwork

The project began with glue-laminated wood panels I constructed as a base to carve the wings from. A paper template was drawn as a pattern for the wings.

The wood outline was rough-cut with a chainsaw and jigsaw, then refined with an angle grinder and die grinder with carving attachments.

The wood wings were tediously sanded and primed before paint.

A combination of pink, purple, red, and glitter spray paint created the fantasy-like coloring. Accents of white were hand-painted in acrylic paint, then sealed.

The clear acrylic backing was next. I created another paper pattern to trace onto the acrylic sheet. I found that an angle grinder worked best for cutting out the shapes. The edges were smoothed out with a die grinder, then sanded by hand.

The clear acrylic was painted with spray paint and acrylic paint, sealed, then fastened to the back of the wood wings with screws. Finally, hanging hardware was installed.

The Final Reveal

Intuition guided me to create a set of ethereal wings. Joyful colors of purple and pink, shimmering with a sparkling aura, and flourishes of pure white curling around its presence.

Earthly reality was not the focus, for the inspiration flowed from an angelic, dreamlike place of beauty and mystery, filled with childlike joy, wonder, and sweetness.

Displayed as a pair of wings on a vertical surface with the space between intentionally left open.

What kind of wings are they? Who do the wings belong to? What fills that space?

It invites us to step within the void to seek answers to those questions. We may find ourselves standing in the emptiness seeking connection to a lost one. And when we look within that space, we find that they are here in this space... they have been all along, because they are within us.

The lost one isn’t so lost, but rather, gone to be in a different place and form. They are present in the whisper of wind through the leaves. They are in the songs of the birds. They are in the color of a butterfly’s wings. They are within us, guiding our attention to the little moments of natural beauty to be found and felt at any time.

This gift of connection is available to us whenever we look, listen, or feel for the gentle memories stored in the shared energy of living things.

I will find you in the peace of nature

Update (August 2021)

The “Wings of Love” artwork has shipped off to Winnipeg, MB where it will be displayed at the new Ronald McDonald House upon its completion in 2022. The charity facility keeps families of sick children together and close to the care they need.

The artwork is intended to be displayed in a room within the facility called the "magic room" inspired by nature and healing where children go upon arriving, leaving, or after receiving treatments.

The donation of artwork is made possible with combined contributions from the family of Tara Gair and Michelle Thevenot Artwork in memory of Mackenzie Gair, and the acceptance of Manitoba Ronald McDonald House.


Artwork Details

Michelle Thevenot

Wings of Love, 2021

Each wing measures 55 inches high x 24 inches wide x 2 inches deep.

Painted wood and acrylic sculpture carved with chainsaw and power tools.

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A lot of personally painful memories bubbled up in the creative process, and at a point in creation I had to stop, step away from it from a time, and focus my intentions on my own inner work before I could continue the artistic process. .

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