Some stories need to be told, even if it has taken a long time to tell them.
A young woman reached out to me, via email, about an art commission. Seriously, I thought it was a joke. Artists get frequent so-called requests. The “hook” is a sale, while the ploy is an “inadvertent” large overpayment to the artist—with a fraudulent check of course! Then the gullible, happy-to-have-a-sale artist sends the art, plus a large cashiers check for the overpayment. Thankfully, having worked in finance for twenty years, I saw the many requests I’d gotten, for what they were—fraud.
But, this contact seemed different. This one had a warmth, and a please, and a heart’s plea woven in throughout the words. I called the young lady. We had a nice laugh when I shared that, at first, I thought her request might be a hoax.
Thankfully, it was not.
She told me about her friend, a dear friend, whose baby died shortly after birth. A beautiful, perfect baby boy named Ambrose. Ambrose! Ambrose is my maiden name. Ambrose is the name I kept as my business name: Angel Ambrose Fine Art Studio. Ambrose would have been our boy’s middle name, the hoped-for second child that never was.
Names are powerful. Consider the thought, care, and sometimes anguish that parents invest in the name of a child. Haven’t we all heard of parents, who had a name all picked out, but changed their mind? Once they gazed on their baby’s face, he wasn’t a Henry, he was a George. She wasn’t a Margaret, she was an Abigail.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, my name—Angel Ambrose—is what landed me this commission.
Kelly had been looking for her friend’s Facebook page when she saw my name. Curious, she took a look at my page. When Kelly saw my art and motto: I create art to stir the heart, an idea was birthed. The page Kelly intended to find, Ambroses Angels, was started by Ambrose’s mom Maggie. Ambroses Angels mission is: Spreading love, hope and kindness. Healing together and reminding all You Never Walk Alone. Maggie spends her time, lots of it, loving on mommas, like herself, that have suffered an unspeakable loss.
And Kelly wanted me to paint something special to bless her friend. As we talked, I interviewed Kelly, looking for clues as to how to create a piece of art that would be treasured by Maggie. She sent me news articles about Maggie; articles about Maggie’s huge heart and projects. Commission work is so satisfying in that I get to create a concept then use my visual vocabulary and painting style to connect with the recipient’s life.
While Kelly wasn’t in a hurry, I felt certain I could have the painting completed by Christmas. She patiently waited. And waited. What happened next, I am not proud of: I forgot. Completely! It wasn’t until I was a state away that something in the recess of my brain awoke. Reality hit and the weight of my failure shook me!
Immediately, I contacted her and explained that my life had blown up. Looking back, I can see that my dad was months from hospice and months from death. Since the conversation when I calculated my projected deadline, my father’s life, and mine became increasingly messy, intertwined, and complex. Apparently the break from daily duties, thanks to my sister, had given me enough space to remember.
Often we try to hide our mess or cover it up. Or spin it or downplay it. I have been guilty of all of these. While I am less likely to hide my messes these days, I am still at least tempted at times. Out of vulnerability and honesty, I’ve seen beauty in brokenness. Kelly reiterated that the commission wasn’t time-sensitive. She offered tenderness and prayer! What an unforeseen blessing. We settled on a new date.
Maggie lives on the water near Boston: she loves the sea. She has three children and had two miscarriages. But a huge part of her story centers around her fourth born, Ambrose, who died unexpectedly at three weeks. As I learned about Maggie, I fell in love with this woman. She didn’t allow these losses to define her, but she allowed them to write a bigger story. Maggie generously helps others by sharing her story and advocating for others.
By her seaside home, Maggie transformed a broken down alley into a sea rock garden that is a blessing for locals as well as those who have intentionally traveled to experience the loving and peaceful environment that she creates there.
For the painting, Maggie’s Garden, I envisioned and painted a waterfront landscape with three small stones resting on the water’s edge. Close-by was a shelter of sorts, a bushlike form holding three more stones, like an embrace. Out of sight for most, these stones were in the shadow of the embrace, but their light shines in the darkness. They have a sacredness and a preciousness about them, hidden away, not not gone. Not forgotten. Safe. Secure. Holy.
With social media and names like Angel Ambrose and Ambroses Angels, there was a risk that Maggie would learn about me before her friend had a chance to surprise her. So I kept quiet until the painting was shipped to Boston and safely in Maggie’s hands. BUT within the four walls of my studio, one First Friday I asked my studio guests to paint rocks as a gift. The rocks would be shipped to be placed in a special rock garden that encourages moms who lost children. My studio guests loved this hands-on art project and we created a lot of neat rocks.
When I told Kelly what we had done, she exclaimed, “Our small group painted rocks last night too!” States apart, at the exact same time on a January Friday night, we painted rocks for Maggie! While we had no earthly idea what the other was doing, Heaven did. These are the amazing kinds of powerful, fun, and fascinating stories we experience when walking with Christ.
The painting for Maggie and rocks for Maggie’s garden were shipped. Kelly presented Maggie with the painting. It was immediately loved. Maggie shared that it was the first gift she ever received that included all six of her babies! My heart is forever bonded with these two beautiful women, that I have yet to meet in person.
The Patriot Ledger said, “Ambrose Angels has become an expression of her love for her son and other people, since she not only gathers and prepares the rocks from the beach below her home, but emails people photos and collages of the rocks. Knowing how the ocean comforted her, Mancuso photographs the stone not just amidst others in the garden, but set in the sand, waves or on boulders.”
Below are a few articles that explain a little more about what Maggie’s doing. Maggie shared that anything she can do to possibly have the chance to help another family, she’s in. You can contact Maggie via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook or Instagram.
Thank you Maggie and Kelly for allowing me to publicly tell our stories. We are better together and I thank God I have gotten to know you both!