Heather L Johnson
In Search of the Frightening and Beautiful


Stories contributed to In Search of the Frightening & Beautiful 4 / 2019. These are descriptions of transformative moments in people’s lives, from the subtle to the sublime. From each story I extract a key phrase and stitch it to a piece of linen that will be given as gifts to others I meet on the road, in exchange for a story of their own.

Melissa Englander Innocenzi. Cypress, TX / Los Angeles, CA

In my second year of college I came home to visit and my dad was acting irrationally. I had never stood up to him before. I did that day (it was a Tuesday) and I told him something was wrong with him and he needed to get help. I left and went back to Austin. That Friday he lost consciousness in our driveway and went to the ER... where my mother was told to get his effects in order. They gave him 6months to live. He lived and worked for us... so he actually lived 2 years... working on a Friday.... slipping into a coma early on a Saturday and passing on Tuesday (my moms birthday). When he does that Tuesday morning... the ambulance came. Even though he had a DNR... Harris county does not honor it outside of the city limits... so paramedics were trying to revive him.... one of the paramedics that showed up was someone I knew from the neighborhood/school... he knew my dad (but we were not friends) and just sat with me on the steps while this went on: my mom taught elementary school at the school across the street. As the teachers arrived at school they slowly made their way over when they noticed the ambulance (it was very surreal as it was spirit day at the school and all of the women were wearing red shirts). Those teachers helped my mom while the paramedic helped me. In the end he wasn’t revived. We were to have him cremated... but we were going to have a service first. The strange thing is... nobody tells you that when people die... there are people who will recognize the name and come to the service as if they are voyeurs in your life. I wasn’t ready for that. I also was surprised at how many people from Austin stepped up and came to Houston to be with me during the funeral. 

That week changed me forever. I lost my idol and my father. I was left to figure stuff out on my own. Thankfully I had made my own sort of family with friends in Austin and I was able to move forward with their help.’

I was able to make several pieces of art that helped me work through my grief with the support of my art instructor and other students. The next year culminated in me having an independent show on campus of my journey in and through grief. Losing my dad forced me to create... create more than I ever had before. It pushed me to accept help when I had always reveled in being independent. His death ideally pushed me to be the person he wanted me to be all along.

June 22, 2018

Heather L Johnson