While I didn’t put my conscious thought into the choices of symbols, the subconscious connection to each piece was deeply significant. Each one had STORIES to tell, not just a story. They needed to be with me on the mountaintop… and I needed to let them go.

I carried them in my son’s backpack, along with some art supplies and a sandwich I picked up at a store at the beginning of the road that led to where I stood. I didn’t just take them out and toss them over. I paused a while with each one, embracing each memory… smiling, crying, the kind of stuff you do when it’s time to say goodbye.

It just seemed right to take them out chronologically, so the first thing I held was Leilani’s collar. I remembered her attacking my sneaker on the first time we met… the time she walked in the door of her new home … and all the years of waking up with her snuggled tightly in my arms.

“Thank you,” I said to her collar. I tried to push aside the final memory of petting her while her body lied lifeless on the kitchen floor. But ultimately, I embraced that memory too. “I will miss you so!” I then took the collar to the edge of the cliff.

“Goodbye… I’ll take it from here.”

Next up was Mini D’s giraffe that he used to play with, covered with his favorite minion’s sticker, Stuart. The giraffe and another toy would always scuffle, before D mumbled something before the other character would fly away. It played out that way every time, hinting at something he must’ve seen in the past.

I could feel his head on my shoulder from the first time I held him. I could still here his laughter, even when I was trying to be serious with him. I could hear the echoes of “Papa! Papa! You’re home!” that used to greet me as I opened the door. And I could still feel the black plastic bags that held his belongings when the car came to take him away.

“Thank you, little man,” I choked, “I will cherish the year we had together… and I’m gonna miss you so! Have an amazing life, wherever you go!”

“Goodbye… I’ll take it from here.”

For my mother, the symbol was a tricky one. What do you get for the woman who gave you everything?

I chose a coin. Not just any coin, mind you. It was from a box of dollar and half dollar coins that she left me in her will. I chose it because money was one of the few remaining “things” that we didn’t fully resolve.

The last few years had really been very healing for the two of us. We just never got around to the subject of money. You see, we grew up well-to-do… not wealthy, but I wanted for nothing. I was one of the first kids to have a VCR, and a Radioshack computer; a year abroad in London and a nose job for graduation.

Money was my parents love language. It was nothing for them to slip me a few bucks every time we saw each other. Yet it always came at a price. Shame. Guilt. “Get a job!” (Why, you just handed me $100?) and telling their friends, “He’s spending all my money!!” (Then don’t give it to me in the first place!).

So, I was a horrible money manager for many, many years. I had to spend every penny because it felt “dirty”. Add to that being compared to my brother, who had become so successful with money, that he became a financial consultant to people with even more money.

However, I worked very hard to heal that, and by the time she passed away, I was doing very well for myself and knew (for the most part) how to manage the money I made.

While I didn’t feel the need to “work it out” with them, this last gesture just seemed to fit.

“Mom…” I began, “You too Dad…”

“Thank you for everything… even those parts we didn’t get right. You raised two successful sons. We’re good. We’re very different from each other, but we’ve way, way different than the kids we were before. So, thank you for doing the best you could.”

“And thank you mom, for loving those kids. That means more than you will ever, ever know.”

“Goodbye… I’ll take it from here.”

I took a moment to think of all the people who didn’t have symbols but were important to the story, nonetheless. The heroes AND the villains. I wouldn’t be standing on the mountaintop if it weren’t for all of them. I thanked them all and said goodbye.

Finally, we came to me. “Well, Stuart,” I began, “we had a good run.”

“You made it all happen, the good, the bad and the ugly. You did the best you could with what you had.”

“I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“But I have to say goodbye.”

I felt a little sad. A little scared.

“You protected me… in ways you didn’t need to. It’s time to put down all those weapons, to exchange the armor, and to make a new life.”

I poked my finger with the pin from a name badge that said, “Stuart Rosen” appropriately enough. Then I put a drop of my blood on a heart shaped pencil sharpener.”

And as I threw it over, I said,

“Thank you… and goodbye… I’ll take it from here.”


Stu Rosen Art is going to be in a gallery in London, England in April 2023. It’s been a dream since I became “Stu Rosen”. Please help it come true. Every little bit helps.

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