Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Sierra Vista is a small residential home for people with either Alzheimers or Dementia. It's located on a semi-rural road at the edge of Santa Fe. My friend Bunny lives there now.  I visited her a few days ago. Her son John and his girlfriend were just leaving as I reached the "secure" front door. We hugged and exchanged a few words.  John told me that Bunny had not slept well the night before so she was tired this morning and might not be very responsive. I was prepared. The day before, a mutual friend told me that Bunny was...uh... "fading fast."

"Fading fast,"  I know what that means.  It means that my friend is going to die soon. 

The receptionist on duty buzzed me in. She escorted me through a labyrinth of narrow halls to Bunny's room; a cell-like space with a single bed, a small chair and a bedside table. There was my dear friend Bunny, struggling to sit up...She was barely aware of me at first.  I sat on the edge of the bed and put my arm around her unbelievable thinness and held her. I used my most powerful memory and concentration skills to superimpose the beautiful woman that Bunny always was over the skeletal, death-like greyness that she has become.

I'm so full of emotions - emotions definitely triggered by seeing and holding Bunny - but emotions about something beyond Bunny: sadness, awe, confusion. I talked to her.  I held her.  We rocked a bit and she mumbled words that I couldn't understand. She said them softly, in a comforting voice.  She was calm and far away.  She listened to me and responded with garbled syllables as I talked about the weather and complimented her emerald green shirt that complemented her green eyes...and those eyes were focused way beyond the small room in which we sat and gently rocked..where?  I don't know.

Oh, my God, my friends are dying...we're coming of age:  The Age of Dying.  I'm going to die at some point and I can't begin (well, yes, I am beginning) to understand that phenomenon.  I 'm thinking of one of my favorite poems published over 30 years ago:  AUBADE, by Phillip Larkin (click here to hear Larkin read it on YOUtube).  Such a beautiful poem.  I memorized it years ago, to recite for the friend who mailed it to me - along with a brief note, "I can't imagine the world without this poem,"  he wrote.  Neither can I.

"...unresting death, a whole day nearer now, making all thought impossible but how and where and when I shall myself die.  Arid interrogation:  Yet the dread of dying and being dead, flashes afresh to hold and horrify..." 

Bunny was always thin - enviably thin - and beautiful. She was tall and graceful and I want to add "willowy" because "willowy" is such a wonderful adjective and it perfectly describes the remarkable friend I met more than forty years ago.  Bunny.  She had to be called "Bunny" or something like Bunny because "Alberta," her given name, was all wrong.

Years really do disappear, don't they?  They collapse into incidents: parties, people, conversations.  Even long full years of friendships collapse into imperfect memories that appear and fade in our minds.  It's not possible to stretch out the memories into real time.  So much real time is gone.


What do I remember about those years of friendship?  We were colleagues in the Art Gallery world.  And we were confidantes.  In the early years of our friendship, we were part of the big escape from "the straight life" that brought so many of us to the mountains and high desert of New Mexico.  We came from all over.  We knew one another by first names or nicknames. Bunny and I must have met at one of the big, informal, bring-a-dish potlucks where there was always plenty of pot and too many watermelons and not enough homemade bread.  And there was always music.  Lots and lots of music.

Bunny was a beautiful widow who lived with her young son in the rugged, not-too-friendly-to-outsiders mountain village of Truchas. I was an ex-New York glamour girl living off the grid in the desert and sandstone land near Cerrillos. Most of the people we knew in those long ago days were some combination of misfit, adventurer, hippie, anthropologist, drifter or draft dodger. Many of us had abandoned or narrowly escaped the middle class lives of our parents and moved to "The Land of Enchantment" in search of an aspect of ourselves that couldn't bloom in the mainstream.

As the years passed and as our children grew and as the world changed, we changed. We got straight jobs, we went back to graduate school, we moved away, we died...before we even thought about dying, we lived, we laughed, we made love.

Bunny and I loved artists - perhaps even more than we loved art.  We discovered ourselves at the right and wrong place, at the right and wrong time.  And we created galleries where people came and drank our wine and looked at our exhibitions and bought the paintings and drawings and sculpture we showed.  We did this way before most everyone who does it now did it...and now we don't do it anymore.  What do we do now?

Bunny is drifting/dreaming/sliding through her last days...attendants in red attendant uniforms lift her into a wheelchair, put her feet in rubber slippers, straighten her legs...and I wheel her down the narrow hallways, into the day room, where two residents ("We don't call them residents here," a supervisor told me.  "We call them 'Elders' It's more respectful.") excuse me, where two Elders sit in front of a big screen TV singing along with a sing along DVD.  We take up a position near the big picture window and look out at the blue sky and the clouds.

"Clouds"  Bunny whispers.  I think that's what she says.  I hold a straw and a glass of juice to her lips.  She drinks a sip or two.  I hold her hand and we look out the window - past the gated pen with two little goats eating something out of a big metal bucket, past the fence, past the parking lot...

"Clouds" she says...softly. 


  1. Thank you for that beautiful reflection on your life and your friend, Bunny.
    I am close with Gloria Donadello, who lives with Alzheimer's. We share time at Upaya's dharma talks and dinner here on Wednesdays.
    Knowing and loving her is a gift, and a heartbreak.


    1. Honey, Gloria was on my mind when I woke up today. I hope this reaches you--or someone who might know her. I'm an old friend of hers, formerly of NYC, now living in Tennessee. Please help me locate Gloria. --Mary B-J

    2. Mary,

      I just saw your note from the 14th.

      Gloria is now living in a memory care unit here in Santa Fe. She can't really receive phone calls, however, I might be able to call you when I am with Gloria.

      You can mail a note to Gloria c/o my home:

      Gloria Donadello
      1236 Vallecita Dr.
      Santa Fe, NM 87501

      My email is

      I look forward to hearing from you.


  2. Bunny is such an extraordinary woman and you, Linda, are so dear to her. Down, down at the cellular level she knows that youare there and loving!

    Honey, Where is Gloria now? Out of Rainbow Vision? I always think of this incredible dinner party our friend Joan had after a show opened. The coolest women ever, eating in the pouring rain and laughing our heads off!

  3. hello Linda! I'm glad you are ok. I keep safe the mugpie feather you offered me. as I know Audacity is still in Keratsini, I send you my love from Athens and Syntagma