By Lin Sue Flood
Hospice of the Valley
Avinell MacDonald isn’t kidding when she says, “It’s never too late to try something new.”
She was 60 years old when her husband asked if there was anything in life she wanted to do but hadn’t tried. Avinell chose two things: play the piano and take up painting. Before she knew it, he’d bought her a piano and paint supplies.
She learned to play a few tunes before giving the piano to her granddaughter, but has never put down the paintbrush in nearly three decades. “I didn’t think I had any talent,” the Hospice of the Valley patient confesses, “but my husband had faith in me, so I kept going. I bought some books and taught myself to mix colors, and suddenly I just took off.”
Her determination ignited something in hospice chaplain Ken Collins, who is quite possibly her biggest groupie. At 63, he decided to give painting a try.
“Avinell is one incredible artist and one incredible person!” Ken says. “The beauty of her paintings is only matched by the beauty of her inspiring life. She’s my biggest encourager and has unleashed in me a long-held passion.”
The two enjoy sharing their latest projects and discussing color and technique. “I never dreamed what I was doing would get him so excited,” Avinell laughs. “He’s got talent, and if he pursues it, he’s gonna be a lot better than I am someday!”
The 89-year-old loves sharing the framed collection that fills her Chandler bedroom studio. Her hospice care team, which includes Ken, nurse Cheryl Adams and social worker Susan Dabreo, enjoys watching the creative process unfold, as Avinell transforms a blank canvas into a beautiful landscape, floral arrangement or family portrait.
Right now, she’s painting a mountain scene from one of her favorite photographs. “I used the same colors of the photo, but it doesn’t suit me, so I’m going to change them,” she quips. “Don’t know what I’ll end up with, but when I finish, I hope I like it.”
“We always say that hospice care includes making the most of life, enhancing it with what you love,” Ken says. “With Avinell, that means nurturing her artistic side, too.”
Her fan club can’t wait to see what she paints next.
“They all encourage me, especially when I mess up. They’re just so kind and generous and don’t make me feel old,” she jokes. “I’ll be 90 in a few months, and look at me. I’m still at it!”