To mark their 25th wedding anniversary June 11, Eric and Kathryn Bozman exchanged silver necklaces.
Eric's is a figaro chain and Kathryn's came with a heart pendant, symbolic of their love and unbreakable bond.
Despite the healthrelated challenges they've faced over the years, just like their new necklaces, the Edgemont Village couple's positive outlook is solid.
"Right now is important," says Kathryn, 57, of their philosophy.
"If you look at the past you can have regrets," says Eric, 54, adding that if you also look too far into the future you can waste time worrying. "Right today, right now, everything's good."
In addition to their marital milestone the "soul mates" have recently been celebrating something else and that is Kathryn's triumphant return to a lifelong passion: painting. Kathryn, who moved to the North Shore at age 11, exhibited an early talent for art, and went on to study at Capilano University and the University of British Columbia where she had an opportunity to study under Lionel Thomas.
Prior to meeting Eric, the landscape painter endured a life-changing car accident. Driving home on New Year's Eve in 1980 during an intense rainstorm, she was involved in a head-on collision on the Pattullo Bridge that left her a quadriplegic. At the time, Kathryn had been married to someone else and had a young daughter.
Despite having to use a wheelchair to get around, Kathryn had been able to continue her artistic pursuits. The first work she produced in the wake of her accident was The Living Hand, a watercolour depicting a barren tree with a hand growing out of the top, reaching skyward, a metaphor for her survival.
Eventually divorcing her first husband, she continued to paint, show and sell her work. She and Eric met in 1986 and they say it was "love at first sight." Two years later they were married and from the beginning he's been her biggest fan, both in art and in life.
The couple maintained an active lifestyle for many years: Kathryn was able to drive; they were avid travellers and enjoyed camping and flying in glider planes. She even tried adaptive skiing and parasailing.
"We did do everything," says Eric.
Kathryn had also been able to continue working, most notably she worked as an accounts receivable clerk from her home office.
"I was known as a 'pit bull who drools honey,'" she laughs.
"She could manage to get people to pay without pissing them off," adds Eric.
Through the years, art was a constant and she continued to produce work.
However, the couple faced tragedy in 2008 after Kathryn was diagnosed with double pneumonia and spent close to a year in hospital, including six months in a coma, finally going home on her birthday.
Everything was different. "When Kathryn first came home from the hospital, she couldn't drive her chair, she couldn't speak, she was on a ventilator 24 hours a day. She couldn't scratch her head," says Eric.
However she and Eric remain committed to her recovery and slowly but surely she's continuing to make progress and increase her level of ability.
"She is a fighter that's for sure," says Eric.
Kathryn has regained her speech, is able to navigate her chair once more and her control of her hands is continuing to improve. Eric has been able to return to work full time at CP Rail in Port Coquitlam.
She's also started painting again and once a week sits at their kitchen table and with the use of splints to hold pens, pencils and brushes, works at regaining her ability.
"It's been going well but it's kind of frustrating too because I have a hard time making straight lines and controlling my hand," she says. "I use splints on my hand and like I said it's frustrating not to be able to be as detailed as I'm used to. But it's nice to work with colour again."
Kathryn refuses to give up. "I love doing it," she says.
Kathryn took an important step in her return to the art world last month, after Eric pointed out a call for artists issued by North Vancouver's Caroun Art Gallery (1403 Bewicke Ave.), published in the North Shore News.
Eric points out the irony of their timing. "The only reason we got an art show was because the guy who was supposed to have the date got into a car accident and broke his legs. So here's a guy who breaks his legs and can't go up and down the stairs so he gets somebody in a wheelchair who can't go up and down the stairs to have an art show," he says.
Caroun displayed 24 of Kathryn's works, predating 2008, from Sept. 1-14. A number sold and the remainder are available to interested buyers (firstname.lastname@example.org).
"(Part) of the whole reason for the art show was encouraging her to get back into art," says Eric.
While she's always been a cheerful person, Eric's noticed a change in his wife since the show. "She just seems more excited with life," he says.
The exhibition was Kathryn's first in 15 years, her last at Maple Ridge's Sunflower Gallery.
"I am so proud of her," says daughter Rebecca, 35, adding it's been amazing to see her mother putting herself out there again. Like Eric, Rebecca has long been a strong support to Kathryn.
The Bozman household is a lively home, bought by Kathryn back in 1985. Her paintings hang throughout. Care aides come and go, as do members of their church family from St. Agnes' Anglican Church, dropping in to say hello.
All are entertained by a 50-year-old double yellow-headed Amazon parrot named Captain, a charismatic, opera-singing, flirtatious, chatterbox-ofa-thing that was previously owned by Kathryn's father.
Kind collie Zander keeps watch over the backyard, home to an impressive garden, in which Kathryn and Eric go for a daily jaunt.
Something new is always blooming, says Kathryn, referring to their discoveries.
A favourite part of their outdoor space is a large japonica tree that, over the years, Eric has trimmed into a heart-shape for his beloved.
"It's been a wonderful journey," says Eric. "We've had a couple of rough times, Kathryn's spent time in the hospital, but other than that it's been really good."
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