Thursday, June 11, 2015

My Friend Bonnie

I first met Bonnie when we were students at BYU. We were assigned to be visiting teaching companions in our married student ward. We were pregnant at the same time and had our first daughters within days of each other. Hers was Lydia and mine was Eleanor. They were our mini-companions and frequent topics of conversation. "How does she sleep?" "Does your roll over yet?" "Don't you love those smiles?" After BYU Bonnie's family went to Indiana while we moved to NYC. It was a pleasant surprise to see Bonnie and her family again during the NYC summers that Adam was performing/work-shopping/doing whatever it is an opera student does when not in school. I remember each summer with such fondness. By the second one Bonnie and I both had an additional child. On the wretchedly hot and humid afternoons we'd take refuge under a tree in the churchyard around the corner. There was a garden we all tended, and a water hose too. We spent many afternoons sitting in the shade nursing babes while our daughters played naked in the wading pool. It was quite idyllic. We laughed and talked, swapped advice and stories - you know, friend stuff.

To say that Bonnie's diagnosis of breast cancer was a shock is a tremendous understatement. I watched from afar via blog updates as she continued to live a life of studied devotion. She handled her surgery, treatments and side effects with the same honesty and dry wit she applied to everything else in her life. She was still Bonnie - very much so.

And when they learned that her cancer was terminal - after they moved back to Utah to be with family for the final weeks or months or however long may be left - Bonnie and Adam allowed me the privilege to come into their home and photograph their life together. And so we met again, though this time I had my camera and the sobering understanding that our days are not as limitless as we might sometimes let ourselves think. I'm grateful I could make these photographs. Grateful for the opportunity to say good-bye. And I'm grateful to have known Bonnie. Though our connection was not particularly intimate, she brightened my days and taught me so very much. She'll not be forgotten by me.
Hey Bon, remember the birthday candles that WOULD NOT light? We were all laughing hysterically. I don't remember what caused the crack up that night during family prayer - but I do remember a rather emotional hug as Adam held you in his arms. We shared so much that was simple and sacred that day.

"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return."
 - Mary Jean Irion

And the closing photo.
Bonnie, ever the lover of levity, would approve.


Katie said...

Oh Whitney. I am at a loss for words, except to say that she is blessed to have had you in her life and that these photos are such a gift to her family.

Andrew and Ariel said...

Beautiful and fitting tribute for our good friend Bonnie. She will be missed.

Emily Hickok said...

Thank you. This makes me cry and laugh and it is perfectly Bonnie.

haley said...

I don't remember the Walton family very well from our days in Wymount, but i was heartbroken when i heard of her untimely death. I'm so glad you were able to offer this incredible gift.