Rosie had a voice like no one I’d ever met before. I remember when I heard her call out for the first time. At first I wasn’t sure it actually came from her—this loud piercing siren of a sound could not possibly be coming from the petite blond sitting and rocking in the front hallway of the New House. But soon enough, it became a familiar song that often called on me, sometimes irritated me but mostly comforted me.
On first meeting Rose, one might mistakenly label her as “non-verbal” or voiceless. Yet she demonstrated many times over her incredible ability to convey emotion, directions, demands and affection without uttering a single word. We all knew clearly her love for the pleasures of life—the warmth of the sun on her skin, the feeling and taste of bread in her mouth, the bite-size crunch of a goldfish cracker, the love of her morning bath or an afternoon swim with the Day Program, the sensation of using her fingers to manipulate her pasta stick in a way none of us could emulate, as hard as we tried—all of this without a word.
Rosie’s voice spoke her truth. Because her voice was not confined to words and sentences, it did not know how to lie. Many of us who have mastered the use of language, have also mastered the ability to say things with our words that do not reflect the truth of our souls. Somehow over the course of my life I have learned to put on a good face—no matter what was going on inside. This was a foreign concept to our dear Rose. When Rose was happy her face and body unmistakably exuded a contagious joy. When Rose was sad, she shed her tears unencumbered. When Rose was pissed-off, she made it clear that no one was to mess with her that moment.
How much time and money have many of us spent going to therapy, dealing with hang-ups about our anger or our bodies or whatever. How many women have envied Rose’s ability to just throw off her shirt on a hot summer day—tunning the young male assistants who would yell out for help—or her ability to fall asleep in front of hundreds of people expecting her to be the main presenter at a high-profile event.
Rose’s voice reflected her deep sense of okayness about herself —something we all crave so deeply and as Rose’s friend Zenia would say is what drew people to her like a magnet. Her freedom gave us a taste of our own freedom. Being in her presence one was released of the need to perform or put on a good face.
It was such a privilege to watch over and over again the transforming power of Rose’s voice. New assistants would arrive at the New House year after year with a deer-in-the-headlights expression on their face as we would introduce them to Rose’s daily routines—and within a month or two, that expression melted into a warm affection for their newfound friend.
Even with the ever-changing face of assistants year after year, Rose found comfort in the companionship of her long time friends and housemates John Smeltzer, Michael Barret and more recently Arliss Arrowsmith. They became Rose’s family and made sure the assistants in the house didn’t skip a beat when it came to making sure Rose’s voice was heard.
Rose’s voice called us to be with her in her pain and by extention the pain of our world.
Her voice called us to not be afraid of what is real because the truth will set us free.
Her voice called us to accept our own belovedness, because she accepted her own and this was evident in the fruitfulness of her life.
Rose, your song is endless and will echo in my soul for all my days to come. So how can I keep from singing?
Thank You Posie.