Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lasantha Rodrigo: "Would You Be Embarrassed if I Drooled in Public?"

In the summer of 1999, I appeared in the Brickstreet Theatre Company's production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. I, cast in the role of Domina, relished the opportunity to take the stage for the first time since my college years, but what made the experience even sweeter was sharing the stage with about a dozen college students who joined the community cast.

I credit them - these vivacious and vital youth - with bringing the production vibrantly to life. Many of them I had first met as students in my classroom when the situation proposed that they would learn from me. Paradoxically, when cast as fellow troupe members, I had the opportunity to learn from them.

Thanks to Facebook, I've recently reconnected with a student named Lasantha Rodrigo who was cast as Miles Gloriosus, a character who is a larger-than-life captain in the Roman army with entrances that herald his capacity to "take laaaarge steps!"

I loved hearing Lasantha, in his Sri Lankan accent, make his grand entrance. It was the "here-I-am-you-must-look-at-me" kind of moment I believe we all would love to have at least once in our lives, and it summed up the greatest lesson I learned that summer: Life live with dramatic abandon whenever possible.

Lasantha, still far younger than I, is continuing to live a divine drama despite the fact his body is now at the mercy of multiple sclerosis. Far from allowing MS to dictate the possibility of his days, he has traveled the world and continued his studies far past the days I knew him as an undergraduate. Now a doctoral student earning a degree in English Studies, Lasantha continues to take large steps, only now he does it with typed words.

Tonight his entrance came by way of a Facebook note. I cherish its dramatic abandon. I cherish the opportunity he continues to offer me to share in the fascinating story of intersecting lives.

I invite you to share in the gloriousness of his life with me, offering it to you as he offered it to me and countless others he knows as Friend.

Here are his thoughts tonight:

"Woud You Be Embarrassed if I Drooled in Public?"

Ahh, what little time we have. Some have longer. Maybe that's fortunate. Maybe... Maybe...

I'm not sure. Not at all, really.

So I sit here at this mindless machine. And I type away. I can still type. How could I even begin to think about a Ph.D. in English Studies?

I cooked supper, and it was good. I can cook, still, too. I'm fortunate in that. Then I noticed that I was drooling while shoving forkfuls of pasta into my mouth. There was no one around, but I was ashamed.

Ahhh, I was drooling. Drooling ... like an old man ... or a baby.

What little time we have here. How unpredictable. How indefinite.

If you move me enough, I will sever my fingers one by one and give you. Willingly ... I can. I can. I will.

Don't be embarrassed if you see my mouth issuing forth slimy streams. I'm still within me.


Dear Lasantha:

I love you, my Friend!

I have no idea what you are going through. I have nothing to compare it to or to help me understand. But I am trying, knowing that even those efforts won't be sufficient. Still I hope that - for you - they are enough for now. And when you need more, I promise to try to understand again, and again, and again, and again.

I will never give up trying to understand. I know you will never give up trying.

Bless you, my Friend. Thank you for living laaaaaaarge!



lasantha said...

Joy, thanks for these tears pouring down in joyous abandon. What a kind gesture... it touches me to the core of my being. I will continue to take large steps as long as there are beautiful people like you in my life. I'm humbled by your goodness and loving spirit. May you be richly blessed as I am to know you. You are a living embodiment of the often neglected difference we can make in the world. Thank you, Joy! You have been named for a reason. :))

Joy said...

You are welcome, Friend. You are not alone.