Westjet - a Canadian commission honoring a brother. / by Abbie Zuidema

My friend Joelle Hann asked me to paint a very special commission.  It was a thank you map for Westjet Airlines. They flew her for 16 months unlimited from New York City to Canada.  So that she could be with her brother and his family while he underwent chemo. It would also commemorate that special window of time they shared.

 “Yesterday Bill, my brother, would have turned 40. This morning I landed in Vancouver to spend a week with his wife, and kids Sammie, 7, and Alex, 8.

This time I bring with me my "thank you" gift for WestJet, the company Bill flew for, who very generously--incredibly, really--flew me from New York to Victoria as often as I needed while Bill was sick. That's 16 months of flights. They never said no. In fact, they said there is no limit.

They are directly responsible for all the extra time I got with Bill. Because of them I got to know Bill again as an adult. I got to know his wife and kids. West Jet was key in bringing my brother and me together again before he passed. It is a gift I can't repay. 

But, I offer this token: an original watercolor painting by the talented Brooklyn artist Abbie Zuidema. A map showing the flight routes I took for those 16 months, one of Bill's favorite quotes, a note of thanks, and the things we loved in both places: the Olympic mountains in the west, the Williamsburg bridge in the east. To WestJet, thank you. (And thank you, Abbie J. Zuidema for the love you put into this project.) I've brought the painting to show my family, and then it's going on to WestJet offices in Calgary.”

-Joelle Hann

This map chronicled a life journey.  We all must face seemingly impossible challenges in our lives, and the passing of a loved one is something we all must experience.  This map was a testament to the grace of leaning into the challenges that life gives us. It’s about survival and abundance, even in the darkest moments.  As I was making this commission, I too was struggling with a loss I didn’t think I could bear. It was incredible to take part in documenting something so affirming.  Thank you Joelle for asking me to be a part of this.