Some of you may remember the words penned by my friend Rhonda about her life with multiple sclerosis and life in hospice that I shared on my blog a few years ago. I met Rhonda in graduate school where she routinely shed her crutches and the clutches of multiple sclerosis when she picked up her camera. It was a sight to behold watching her climb picnic tables to get better shots.
For her thesis, this former professional photographer named Rhonda asked women to allow her to take nude portraits of them. Though I cheered her on and even recruited for her, I admit to feeling a wee little bit left out that she didn’t ask me . . . but then, on the last night of her last residency, she flopped down in one of those hideous metal folding chairs and asked, “So, are you going to pose for me?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” I told her.
We met the next morning in the meditation house, one of the two locations she chose for my portrait, and she casually mentioned that she was also going to take some shots of me sitting on some moss in the woods because she had more than 36 exposures to spend and I was her last model. As I stripped completely naked in front of those beautiful walls with their layers and layers of peeling paint, I chattered with nervous excitement. When i neatly folded the last article of clothing, Rhonda looked at me and said, “I was only going to photograph you from the waist up.”
The portraits became a part of her thesis and went on to become a traveling exhibit that moved the country around with and without her accompanying workshop. Rumor has it that they are being compiled into a book. I’ll keep you posted.
Rhonda also asked me to read the Vagina Monologue she wrote as part of her thesis, and I tell you what: I don’t know when I’ve had so much fun or been so honored. That woman is just full of surprises.
Rhonda’s courage, her determination to live even while dying, her deep dedication to writing the unblinking, undiluted truth about her life with multiple sclerosis and her life in hospice has been a constant source of inspiration. I love her.
I’ve just received notice that Rhonda is in the final days of her earthly life, and I thought maybe you’d like to take a few minutes to send her on her way by reading her story then leaving her a note in her journal over at Caring Bridge. Her family is reading all notes left in her journal to her as she transitions. Whether your read her writings or not, thank you for giving her a fine send-off with your thoughts and wishes, and thank you Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg for letting us know.