My friend is dying.
Bonnie was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer 30 months ago, and she has put up an incredible fight. But treatments stopped working several months ago, and Bonnie is losing her battle. I learned a lot in the last 30 months as I had never had experience with terminal illness before. Bonnie has handled her cancer with grace, dignity and courage; she has never complained or sounded angry. She has truly been an inspiration, and I know that she is at peace with the world. But her illness also showed me the power of photography, and this is what I would like to write about in this personal post.
We moved to Berne, NY in 1999, and when John joined the New Scotland Beagle Club, we got to know several beaglers from the area. Archie and Bonnie Munro became our friends.
|August 2006: Archie and Bonnie at the Italian Dinner that followed the New Scotland Beagle Club trial.|
Since Archie was going to spend some time in the hospital, I took a picture of Dommy and her newborn puppies, framed it and brought it to him. This was the only way for him to see his puppies. I know that it meant a lot to him, and all the people visiting Archie were showed the picture and heard about the memorable night.
|June 11, 2007 - Dommy with her puppies|
When I visited Bonnie three days ago at the hospice, the same picture was placed by her bed. At this very moment I understood for the first time how powerful photography is. Telling the truth I have not been able to stop thinking about it since then.
A powerful picture does not even have to be a very good picture in a technical sense. But it has to have a meaning, connection and evoke strong emotions. I asked myself a question – if I could have only one picture of my dog (s), which one would it be? Do I have a picture like this? I think I do – it is a picture of Kuba when he was already very sick, and I knew that the end was near. When I look at the picture his eyes connect me to his soul. Do you have a picture of your dog, past or present, that is THE PICTURE? If you don’t, I think you know what you need to do.
When Archie and I were with Bonnie on Friday (now three days later she is very weak, and most of the time she appears to be in a deep sleep), a man walked into her room accompanied by his golden retriever Scotch. I have never seen a hospice dog in action though I read about this kind of service dogs in Jon Katz’s book. It was heartwarming to see how much pleasure and comfort Bonnie got from Scotch’s presence. He was very quiet, very low key, just laid down next to Bonnie. Bonnie’s hands were stroking his thick coat, and you could see through her gentle smile how good it felt. Her eyes were bright, and she was animated. She rallied for the last time. I did not have my camera with me so I snapped a picture with my cell phone. This is going to be the picture that I am going to remember Bonnie by. The power of photography....
|Bonnie with Scotch. The picture I will always remember.|