I Put My Right Hand to God: Greiving, Painting and Honoring Nipsey Hussle / by Antoinette Cauley

I was sitting at the top of A mountain in late January when I first saw a white butterfly. I told myself that I needed to research the symbolism behind what they mean as soon as I got a chance. When I looked it up, the first subject that popped onto my screen was “death”. I instantly felt sick to my stomach and could feel the anxiety pulsating through my core. I continued to read that in lots of cultures around the world, white butterflies symbolize death or rebirth which can be the same thing.

Over the coming weeks, my anxiety over this sense of death seemingly creeping into my life would land me in the doctors office. It just all got so bad that I woke up one night at 3a.m. and had a horrible panic attack. I drove in my pajamas to my mothers house 15 minutes away where my mind took complete control and my body seemingly had a mind of its own. I couldn’t stop shivering or crying. I thought I was dying. I had to take medicine to help me calm down/ sleep. I woke up ten hours later with a more clear state of mind and what felt like a reset. I had to make some changes, the anxiety had peaked.

Everywhere I went I just continued to see those damn butterflies. I felt taunted by them. I would see ten to twenty a day in every place you could imagine… that is until March 31st 2019.

I will never forget sitting on the couch in that high rise in downtown Phoenix and getting the phone call that Nipsey Hussle had been killed. I was alone and had received the call before any news outlets had even reported his passing. I cannot explain the pain that overcame me. It was completely devastating. I couldn’t speak to anyone, not even my mother. I deleted all of my social media apps and turned my phone onto airplane mode. I just wanted to be alone.

The next day, suddenly… all of those white butterflies made sense. Just as fast as they had come into my life, they were gone and my anxiety left with them. The anxiety was replaced with absolute heartbreak and grief. I couldn’t do anything but cry and sleep. I didn’t leave bed for awhile actually and eventually full fledge depression set in. I tried everything to feel “better”. I spent money on things I didn’t need, I remodeled my bedroom, I ate a TON of junk food, I even drove to L.A. the night before his funeral to visit the memorial at the store. All in all, I have done more to cope than you can imagine.

Rewind: For those of you who are fairly new supporters of mine, I am going to break down very briefly what Nipsey Hussle did for me personally. (You can read the full story in my prior blog post written in August of 2017). In 2015 I got one of my paintings in front of Nip that I had been trying to get him to see for months. When he met me, he was blown away by my work. Before I left he made me come back and said to me “keep doing what you are doing, I’m serious!” That moment was by far the most important in my dream chase/ career as a full time artist because it is ultimately what led me to quit my job and make the leap. Two years later I had the chance to thank Nipsey in person and WOW. Just wow. He never once broke eye contact, he held onto every word I said, he laughed with me and he was so grateful and humbled by my story. Most of all he was proud of me. I gifted him a painting and at the end of the night I was the last person he said goodbye to… “Keep doing what you’re doing!” He said as he left the building. I have always and will always cherish those moments.

Fast-forward to present day: While the trip to L.A. was a very spiritual experience for me, none of those other things helped the sadness go away. I don’t think the “sad” ever actually goes away to be honest but I know things get easier to manage as time passes. I have never experienced a loss like this one. He wasn’t someone I had a deep personal relationship with, but he was someone who’s words deeply changed my life forever. He was someone who helped pushed me into truly living my life. He created the soundtrack to my hustle and laid the foundation for so many like me to push our independent art unapologetically all while building our communities up. Without him I would not be where I am today.

I began working on my painting “I Put My Right Hand to God” as a way to work through the hurt but truthfully, I didn’t see and end to the mourning in site. That is until I got a phone call from Angel, Nipsey’s mother two weeks ago. Long story short, she was told about me and how I was struggling through Moses, a muralist I know in LA. He had told me that morning that I would be receiving and important call and that I should be sitting down. Shortly after, the phone rand and the caller I.D. read “Samiel Asghedom” and I just knew. I knew it was her…

“Hello” I said.

“Hi! Is this Antoinette?” I heard a woman say.

“Yes, this is her…”

“Hi Antoinette, this is Angel, Nipsey’s mom”

I instantly burst into tears and tearfully replied, “Hi!”

“Hi Sweetie, I was chatting with Moses and he told me that you were having a hard time and so I wanted to talk to you” She said to me in the calmest, sweetest voice. I then told her what her son did for me and how he impacted my life. My spirit told me to let her do the talking and that what I did. She spoke to me for an hour and told me so many stories from her sons childhood that demonstrated his strength and his sense of adventure. She dropped so many gems and so many words of encouragement. She told me that I was living proof that her son accomplished his mission while he was here physically on earth. It almost felt as if her son was speaking through her. She really was an Angel sent by the universe into my life. She was amazing and that phone call was heaven sent.

Quite honestly, It has been a whirlwind trying to navigate through the pain but the universe has been popping up in ways I never expected to help me through it. This painting was a summary of all of my emotions and sort of the final step in my grieving process. I chose to portray myself as a child because that is when I felt most strong while in all reality I was actually at my most vulnerable. I wanted the contrast of strength and that hurt I have felt since Nipsey’s passing to show through.


I included the white butterflies as a symbol of losing one physical being and as a result a world of people being rebirthed. I painted my right hand to the sky facing towards “God” holding one of my favorite paintbrushes as a symbol of my dedication and devotion to serving those I am meant to inspire and motivate with my art. My right arm also has a tattoo with Nipsey Hussle’s lyrics “They don’t know about those sleepless nights, those looking for a reason nights” that accompany two blue roses that turn into the galaxy and then into a pencil and a paintbrush. There is a too much symbolism in this painting to lay out so I will let you all take from it what your heart decides to show you. Ultimatley I view this painting is a contract between myself, the universe and to the legacy of Nipsey Hussle that I will push forward and give this world everything I have in me one brush stroke at a time.

It has been rough emotionally, but I am so thankful to all of my fans who have poured out so much love, I am grateful to my friends and my family who have let me cry to them for countless hours. I am beyond grateful to Moses for asking Angel to call me and I am just so humbled that Angel took the time to call me and talk me through my hurt.

When things like this happen, nothing will ever be normal again for so many. All you can do is find a new normal and learn to walk in that space, whatever it may be. As the world mourns I will continue to hold space in my heart for Ermias Asghedoms family, friends and colleagues. I hope that you all will do the same. They took the biggest loss of all and I cannot imagine their pain.

Nipsey Hussle’s legacy is one that I know will withstand the test of time and his energy will forever exist in the hearts of us all. He, Ermias Asghedom, was truly sent straight from the heavens to change the world. It is up to all of us now to pick up the torch and run. It is up to us to keep him alive. So, as Nip Hussle THa Great would say-

The Marathon Continues!