I finally finished the portrait of Shirley to my satisfaction. I spent the afternoon fussing over the last details and signed my name to it. It has been a strange experience, trying to remember Shirley without thinking of her dying in her hospital bed, trying to keep the painting innocent. I felt that I was immortalizing her, that once she is gone and the painting remains, the painting will become her. In the same way that photographs become the memories we have of people we have lost, the portrait may come to represent her in the memory of the people who look at it over and over. The image of the real Shirley will fade and be superceded by the portrait. True or not, it was with this sense of responsibility to Shirley's memory that I labored. I wanted to tell the truth about her life as I perceived it while at the same time portraying the sense of perseverence and hardiness I sensed in her. I remember her sense of humor which seemed to stem from a deep knowledge of the darker side and the ability to laugh in its face. She seemed to me to live far below the suface, her own tough person beneath a somewhat frail exterior.
It is presumptuous of me to think I can know someone on the basis of a few weeks of contact, but I had to go on what I gleaned from that association and the bits and pieces of Shirley's life that were revealed to me by Thom and David. I like her and think of her with fondness. I believe that , if nothing else, that comes across in my painting of her.