Beauty, Sadness, and Glory: An Easter Message through Don Hatfield

“Windy Dunes” by Don Hatfield greets all who enter the author’s home. Rachel Hatfield Winkler (1975-2012) is in the foreground. She is now joyfully running and leaping and praising God in eternal sunshine.

I’d like to tell you about a friend of mine. There will be sadness and beauty in this story. Let’s start with beauty.

My friend’s name is Don Hatfield. My wife and I first “met” Don in 1985. In an art gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, lightning struck. Eileen spotted a painting that instantly took her breath away. It was a 30-by-40 impressionist oil painting signed “Donald Hatfield.” Don is a master of light, color, and composition. His canvases invite you into a universe of innocence, purity, tenderness, and peace.

We bought our first “Hatfield” that day. It has been the focal point of our living room ever since. This painting has made Don a living presence in our home. It is a window into his soul.

Two years ago, I was indulging in the national pastime of surfing the Web and found Don’s website. To make a long story short, I phoned him and bought two more of his luminous paintings. So began a long-distance friendship via phone and e-mail (Don lives in California; we’re in Pennsylvania). We still haven’t met Don in person, but we’re close friends.

Now here’s the sad part: Don has had a rough time lately. Years ago, he made a bad business decision and lost the rights to most of his work. An impulsive and generous free spirit, Don spent too much, gave away too much, and borrowed too much. Last year he lost his house and everything.

Flat broke, Don was at peace, looking forward to sharing a simple, low-key retirement with his greatly beloved second wife, Janey. It didn’t work out that way. On January 21, Janey left this world after a 6-month battle with cancer.

It gets worse. On February 27—the same day three kids were gunned down at an Ohio high school—Don’s only daughter, Rachel, 37, was killed by her husband. That means that Don—64 years old, broke, and twice bereaved—now has custody of Rachel’s three children, Eva, four, Ariel, two, and Alex, nine months.

Here is where the story gets beautiful again. Don has a deep and abiding faith in God’s tender mercies, perfect justice, and infinite loving-kindness. He rejoices in the salvation found in His Son, Jesus, the Christ. He has had this faith a long time. Don—complete with theology degrees—pastored two churches several decades ago, before God led (pushed?) him to use the amazing talent He had given him: to express beauty through painting.

If you go to the blog on Don’s website (DonHatfield.com), you can hear him talk about what he has lost humanly and what comforts him spiritually. He is grieving, of course, as only a man with such a gentle heart can grieve. But he is buoyed up by the promise of eternal life that Jesus secured for all of us on that divinely glorious first Easter morning nearly 2,000 years ago. Don joyfully embraces the truth that Jesus shared with Martha before raising her brother Lazarus from the tomb: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will still live, even if he dies. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25,26, World English Bible).

Don knows that he will be reunited with his departed loved ones someday. Meanwhile, though, there are human needs to be met. A fund has been established for the support (nannies, etc.) of his three grandchildren, while Don restarts his art career to provide for their future needs. Once again, God is leading my friend to share his precious talent of creating beauty.

If you are in a position to help a good man and three little children in their hour of maximum need, you can donate by going directly to RachelsChildrensFund.com or indirectly viaHatfieldFineArt.blogspot.com. If nothing else, let Don do something for you: Check out his paintings online and enjoy the beauty.

May Easter glory brighten your life as it is brightening Don’s.

Postscript: After writing this, I called Don. He told me that Rachel had almost died of bulimia at 14. These last 23 years have been a gift. At the time of her passing, Rachel’s greatest wish was that her husband would find the Lord. Someday, when that man faces up to and grieves for his awful mistake, he may realize that the Lord’s mercy is the only way to have the crushing burden of guilt removed from his soul. Rachel’s death may lead him home, and she and Don will rejoice.