Christian finds joy in painting after accident

By Neal A. Johnson, UD Editor
Posted 11/11/21

What do you do when your world is turned upside down?

Following a horrific accident in March 2016 that claimed the life of his father, Kaleb Christian, 34, originally of Auxvasse, in Callaway …

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Christian finds joy in painting after accident

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What do you do when your world is turned upside down?

Following a horrific accident in March 2016 that claimed the life of his father, Kaleb Christian, 34, originally of Auxvasse, in Callaway County, decided to make the best of the situation.

Despite being a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down, Kaleb didn’t let it bring him down.

“This is what they call a complete injury,” he said. “I’m lucky to be alive at all, and I decided to exercise what I can. You can’t let it defeat you.”

After the death of his father, Charlie, Kaleb moved around various nursing facilities before settling at General Baptist Nursing Home in Linn three years ago, where he found an outlet for the art that has always lived within him.

“I was always artistic but I’m even more so now,” Kaleb said. “I wanted to be close to my mom and stepdad, who live in Jefferson City, and I love it here at General Baptist. I feel that God brought me here.”

When the COVID lockdown hit, Kaleb focused his attention on acrylic paint pouring and watched hours of videos on YouTube learning how to do it.

This process combines acrylic paint, glue, and water in a consistency that will run when poured on a canvas or vase. “You don’t have to be artistic to make something beautiful,” said Kaleb, who spends time every Sunday with fellow residents teaching them how to produce this artwork. “You swirl and stretch the paint after you pour it on the surface, and it becomes an entirely different thing. The residents love doing it.”

Kaleb has created about 200 pieces between canvas and vases and gives many of them away as gifts to fellow residents and staff members at GBNH.

“They make good gifts,” he said. “I don’t think about what I’m creating. I just get a wild hair and start pouring.”

It’s therapeutic, Kaleb added, noting that he has taught his mother, Lora, and stepdad, Gary Bruemmer, when they’ve come to visit over the last couple of years.

“We also talk every night on Facebook Messenger and that is really nice,” said Kaleb. 

On that rainy night when he slid off the road, Kaleb wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, and though the car rolled several times, he wasn’t ejected.

“I was trapped but they got me out, and I would warn everyone to wear their seatbelt,” said Kaleb. “It could mean the difference between life and death.”

When he thinks back to that night, and the resulting injury, Kaleb turns to his faith. He and other General Baptist residents take part in virtual services with various churches in the area, and St. George sisters offer communion at the facility.

“I always believed in God but now I have a strong relationship with Him,” he said. “Friends and family keep me going but I know where my strength lies. Without struggles, what is the point of life? I have faith that God will help me.”

Christian said the most rewarding aspect of his art is the reaction of those who view it. “Seeing everyone come down and look at the art or participate in the Sunday ‘House of Paint’ is awesome,” he said. “As long as I wake up every day and know I did something kind for someone … there’s no better feeling.”

Christian noted that people have donated paint, canvases, and other materials, and anyone wishing to do so may contact General Baptist. The public is welcome to attend and take part in the Sunday painting sessions.

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