Life after my Sabbatical
It is crazy how one action, event or circumstance can activate and set things back in motion. In 2017, I started on a journey to find my father’s paintings. My employer approved a month long sabbatical to allow me to work on this project uninterrupted. What an amazing experience it was and has been, words cannot describe how overwhelmed I have been with emotions. The project revealed to me so many wonderful things about my father’s life. In my naïve mind, I thought in one month I would able to compile enough content, information and artwork to pull together a piece that would represent my fathers’ lifetime achievements. Now, I laugh at the thought! But don’t get me wrong, it was a marvelous first step in the right direction but yet far from what I needed based on what I had envisioned. In my quest, I met so many inspiring and caring people who were connected to my father in so many different ways. I must say, they all had one thing in common, they all loved him. Men and women alike spoke of my father’s kind and giving heart. They felt drawn to him for his free spirit and compassionate demeanor. They described him as genius, talented and a master of his craft. Oscar Thomas is his name. He was all of that and so much more. I was fully embedded into finding his artwork. In his lifetime, my father painted at least one painting a day. Imagine 365 paintings a year for decades! It shows me that he is alive in the homes of thousands of people around the world who admired him and his work. Thus far, I have been successful in every aspect of my life; personal, career and family. Life was great and I was fulfilling my purpose. When I thought things could not get any better, my boyfriend of several years Darris Straughter unexpectedly asked me to be his wife. I was now engaged to be married and was enjoying the moment and sharing the pleasant news with friends and family. However, the joy abruptly came to a halt when life threw me a curb ball after my fiancé became the victim of gang violence while heading to meet me after a Bridal Expo. It was January 6, 2018, at approximately 4 o’clock in the afternoon on a beautiful sunny Saturday. As a result of the tragic incident, he was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami, Florida. The examination revealed a total of 9 gun shot wounds that fractured his radius and ulna, the two bones in his right forearm and the remaining bullets in his back narrowly missing his spinal cord. He survived but is now paralyzed from the chest down. Less than two weeks after being released from the hospital we wed at the Ancient Spanish Monastery in front of 75 close family and friends. On our special day, in honor of my father, we commissioned Dr. Ronald McDowell, to paint our portrait at the wedding. I also had a gallery of my father’s artwork on display. Many paintings were loans and/or donated for the special day. The project that was so dear to my heart would have to be set aside, and my husband’s rehabilitation took its place and became my core focus. Although I had to shift gears, my father’s project weighted heavy on my mind. I could not get it out of the forefront of my life because people from all over the world kept reaching out to me regarding my dad’s work. My husband and I purchased our first home together and moved in 2019. This has drastically improved our quality of life. If anything, we could take away from 2020 is to reprioritize one’s life and do what you love. That year taught us all a lesson that life is fragile and short. By the end of the year, I was committed to reactivating the project and committed to starting out strong in 2021. In doing so, I decided to post my father’s artwork in celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s. holiday. The feedback and personal messages I received was reassurance that it was the right thing to do. I personally do not believe in coincidences but rather in faith. This is what I mean, this years for the very first time my employer, the same one that originally approved for me to take a paid month long sabbatical to support my father’s project, decided to feature my story for Black History Month. I have been granted an opportunity to share my father’s artwork and this journey with it’s 10k plus employees. I am excited to be in a place where I can see the finish line. What is even more rewarding is that I get to finish what I started just in time for the 25th anniversary of my dad’s passing.
Author Dr. Tasha Thomas
I am excited to share my journey of finding, cataloging, and archiving my father's (Oscar Thomas Sr.) artwork for generations to come.