As the looming winter weather closed in on the Midlands earlier this week, Steve Bell was struck with another chilling revelation.
“It hit me that I was snowed in – out in the boondocks – without a Valentine’s gift,” said the 64-year-old Prosperity resident.
It was Tuesday night and Bell had just returned from the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Atlanta with his wife, Janice Bell, who had gotten a clear report following cancer surgery one year ago.
It was great news, to be sure. Still, the issue of the Valentine’s gift remained.
“I decided to make one, or better, paint one,” Bell explained.
He had traveled a similar path a year ago.
The former contractor and professional photographer had dabbled in watercolors for years. And as he sat at his wife’s bedside last Valentine’s Day following her surgery, he painted a scene of a couple sailing in a boat with a heart-shaped sail, which he entitled “Crusin together forever.”
“I surprised her when she finally awoke the next day,” Bell said. “She said with tears flowing, ‘You couldn’t have done better.’ ”
Bell drew from that inspiration as his wife slept in this past Wednesday as he created another painting that illustrated the stage of the journey the two have traveled since Janice’s initial diagnosis a year and a half ago.
The painting depicts sailors rounding “Cape Hope” into safe harbor with the storm clouds behind them. Bell said it illustrates that while “the cancer storm still looms,” he and his wife continue to journey into safe harbor, noting that cancer patients typically reach a significant milestone after remaining cancer-free for five years.
“That’s kind of what the painting is saying. We’re outrunning the storm. We’re kind of leaving it behind right now,” Bell explained of the journey that they are sharing with their four children, 19 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Bell plans to give his wife the painting on Valentine’s Day morning, and said his creative gift offers a picture of his heart.
“An original painting is a very, very personal gift,” he said. “If the painting is a gift for a loved one, I put my heart and soul in it.”
As Bell and his wife wait for the ice to melt, they continue to enjoy the snowy landscape from the sunroom at their Lake Murray home as they watch the birds help themselves at one of four feeding stations near the windows.
“When it clears up some, we’ll take a ride in the jeep four-wheel drive and look for pretty country snow scenes to photograph,” he said.
But even when the snow is gone, he said the couple’s hope and journey will remain.
“We pray we will continue to cruise together on that heading that will deliver us to safe harbor.”