My very dear friend Donna passed away last week, quite suddenly and quite unexpectedly. I had just seen her the week before at my opening at SAM. And now she was gone. She was a dear, sweet woman, so very elegant and full of grace and style. Over 30 years ago, as an artist’s rep, she took me on as young artist, at a time when I was still searching for my vision and trying to gain a footing in Seattle. Even though my work wasn’t the most commercially salable, she loved it. She nurtured me, encouraged me and would say for me to do the work I felt most passionate about and together we would make it work. And we did, she did… She probably had no business taking me on. I mean there were plenty of photographers out there that she probably could have earned more money with. But she said she liked my work, she liked me and the business had to fun, or what was the point? So on we went. And all on a handshake. We never did contracts, it was all on trust. And it worked. Over the years our friendship grew and she, and later she and Annie always took me to lunch for my birthday. I used to feel bad that I never very good at remembering theirs. But she would often come to dinner and Carter would make her martinis and we would carry on for hours. One time we invited her to a party and she mistakenly came a day early… and stayed for a dinner of leftovers. Her house was full of my artwork and she couldn’t enough of my photos of Gabe. Her home always reminded me of an apartment in Paris, dense with stuff… and art and books and her flee market finds. She was a wonderful, free spirited woman, who I will think fondly of for the rest of my life.
Death is such an odd thing. We know it is inevitable, we know it will happen, we just don’t know when. Sometimes we see it coming, and we wait patiently, sadly for the process to unfold. Sometimes it is sudden and unexpected and we are blindsided by the moment. But we can never really choose the ending. We can never be truly ready for it. It just happens…the end. All we can really do is remember. And we often remember the last time. The last time we spoke to them, spent time with them, laughed or cried with them.
I last time I saw Donna was on June 11th, at the Seattle Art Museum, the night of my opening. She came to wish me well. And there she was, smiling and happy and my first thought was how radiant she looked, with her silver hair and eyes that sparkled. And that smile. It lit up the room. We only talked briefly, but she gave me a big hug, said my work looked beautiful and then pushed me away. Go talk to your adoring fans, she said. Let’s have lunch soon. I never saw her again.
But if I had to pick an ending, if I had to choose a final memory, I don’t think I could have scripted it any better then that.
Goodbye Donna. I will miss you.