IN LIFE, RHODY YULE, impressed me with his humble spirit, deep faith and artistic talent. He thought the best of everyone. He appreciated life so much that, even up until days before his June 2011 death when he was but a shell of his former physical self, he desired to live beyond his 92 years.
Losing my friend of only a few years—the man I met because I photographed the portraits he had painted and hung on the side of his garage in rural Rice County—was difficult for me. Yet, I knew Rhody’s legacy would live on in the hundreds of paintings he created through the decades.
It was my absolute honor, after discovering Rhody’s work, to bring his paintings to the public via a mini art show at Christdala Evangelical Swedish Lutheran Church, rural Millersburg, and then during a much larger gallery exhibit at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault.
And now Rhody, in death, has blessed me with the gift of one of his paintings, the painting he knew I most favored.
On Tuesday evening, the day before my 56th birthday and just a day shy of the two-year anniversary of that mini exhibit at Christdala—yes, I spent my 54th birthday setting up that art show for Rhody—I picked up the painting Rhody wanted me to have.
I’d known for a few weeks that I was to receive the painting I’ve come to call “Woman in Reverent Prayer.” Tuesday I phoned Rhody’s stepson, Bob, asking if my husband, Randy, and I could come over and pick up the piece of art in a half hour. That would work, Bob said.
Over at Bob and his wife Kathy’s condo, Rhody’s prayerful woman painting leaned against the living room wall as we reminisced about the man we had each loved.
And as I remembered Rhody, I felt myself slipping into sadness. I missed him and wished I had known him longer.
Then, when Bob told me how Rhody wanted me to have that particular painting and how Rhody’s gallery show at the Paradise was the highlight of the last year of his life, the tears seeped from my eyes. To be able to give someone like Rhody such a gift, to realize how much this meant to him, prompts the most humbling and joyful of emotions.
Shortly thereafter as I caressed the painting, Bob suggested that I might want to replace the dinged frame. No, I would keep the frame Rhody crafted, I said, running my fingers along the wood.
Bob lifted the four-foot by 2 1/2-foot painting onto the dining room table then so we could examine the date under Rhody’s signature. We could barely decipher the faint curve of double sixes, meaning Rhody painted “Woman in Reverent Prayer” in 1966 when I was just 10 years old.
I know nothing, really, about the oil painting except Rhody once sharing that it was based on another painting or photo, minus the rosary beads clasped in the kneeling woman’s prayerful hands.
Now, each time I view Rhody’s painting, which will soon grace a wall in my living room, I am reminded of my friend’s deep faith. And I am reminded of how very much his friendship meant to me and likewise my friendship to him.
To realize that Rhody wanted me to have this painting simply touches my heart with gratitude and love.
FYI: To read about Rhody’s mini art show at Christdala Evangelical Swedish Lutheran Church, click here.
© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling