SARATOGA COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Growing up, you might have had that one picture, a painting or drawing, that was good enough for mom and dad to proudly hang on the fridge. One local Gold star mother has taken her daughter’s work to create, “The Art of Healing.”
Every piece of art drawn by Abigail Jenks tells a different story but with a singular connection.
“I wanted to convey life all around it,” said Mary Jenks.
Mary Jenks knows just how precious life is. Her daughter Abigail was a paratrooper for the 82nd Airborne Division. In April, Abby, who was only 20-years-old, died tragically in a training exercise at Fort Bragg.
“The first thing that the guy said to me that day on my front doorstep was ‘your daughter.’ I just jumped up and I wanted him to stop talking,” said Jenks.
Facing the unimaginable loss, Mary was not alone. An outpouring of support came from the community.
“Every bridge from the Albany International Airport to Exit 16 on the Northway was completely full of emergency vehicles, to fire trucks, to police cars. I would watch as we went under the bridge and the hearse was there and they would all salute her,” said Jenks.
After the final salute, Mary was at a loss for how to cope and needed something more than pictures and mementos to bring her peace. She found it by creating a special memorial for her daughter.
“This is Abigail’s room. Instead of mourning in someplace, I can come in here and reflect. I have all the pictures in here and all the albums when she was younger,” said Jenks.
A room to reflect and admire her daughter’s many talents. Medals, pictures, and hundreds of pieces of art are all on display.
“There’s such a wide variety. Abby had this balance in life, and that’s what I see in her artwork,” she said.
When the pain and loss would not leave her, Mary turned to social media to connect with other parents who are grieving the loss of a child. Suddenly, she was not alone. Gold Star mother Kim Vandenburg lost her 25-year-old son, also in a tragic accident.
“When I opened the door, I just lost it and fell to the floor. It was the worst day of my life,” said Vandenburg.
Her son Nathan served as a Cavalry Scout in Alaska. No matter how dark the situation, he always made people smile.
“He was very outgoing, and the life of the party. He got along with everyone, and the girls loved him,” said Vandenburg.
Meeting for the first time in Abby’s room, a shared tragedy transformed into a moment of understanding.
“So, immediately, you come together and form a bond. We will definitely be bonded for life,” said Vandenburg.
A chance to heal through the power of each other and inspire new beginnings.
“Comforting to know that I’m not alone even though sometimes I might think that. It’s just amazing to know someone else is going through what I’m going through,” said Jenks.
“It’s amazing. She inspired me to do my room. I have been trying to do it with my son’s stuff that I haven’t touched in five, six years,” said Vandenburg.
After Abigail’s passing, Mary Jenks is now sharing her daughter with the world.
“Now my life is for Abby. I just want to pick up that flag, keep carrying it, and let her light shine through me,” said Jenks.