As many of you may already know, on August 24, 2016, feminist theologian and scholar Rosemary Radford Ruether suffered a significant stroke. There has been some speculation from those who know or have known Rosemary about her current condition. Here is the short of it. While Rosemary has made progress, her doctors and therefore Medicare feel it is insufficient to warrant continued physical and speech therapies. Those who interact with Rosemary on a daily or weekly basis disagree with this medical prognosis. The stroke damaged the part of Rosemary’s brain that allows for communication, therefore she, at this time, is not able to speak. That said, Rosemary recognizes individuals, is able to respond to some commands and engage in therapeutic exercises. The more attention and care she receives the greater her capacity grows for a more meaningful life that includes a level of agency.
The first year of a stroke demands ongoing therapies in order to truly assess a clear diagnosis. To what degree Rosemary will recover from her stroke is uncertain, but at the minimum ongoing therapies will prove beneficial towards her overall quality of life. Unfortunately, Rosemary does not have secondary health insurance that will cover the cost of these badly needed therapies. For example, one month of Physical Therapy at 3x/week and Speech Therapy 2x/week amounts to $3,289.00. Put another way, 15 minutes of physical or speech therapy costs $41.00. To be effective, Rosemary should have, at the minimum, five hours of combined therapy per week.
Joan Borysenko, author of A Woman’s Journey to God, notes that unlike men who set out alone on “The Hero’s Journey,” in the Descent of Inanna, Inanna “cannot make the journey of transformation alone. Her path to wisdom and her divine birthright as the goddess of love is one in which friends are the key components. Without them she would not survive” (178). So too is the case with our beloved Rosemary. In Mary Hunt’s splendid article “The Life of ‘Scholar Activist’ Rosemary Radford Ruether, Hunt reminds us of Rosemary’s connection with her students when she notes:
Her ability to create colleagues — not mentor in the patriarchal sense, but to really create colleagues in her students — assures that her work will endure beyond her earthly life, when, according to her own theology, she becomes part of the compost for future lives. That is “hope and meaning” in abundance.
If you have benefited from Rosemary’s scholarship, friendship or mentorship there is a tangible way to give back to a woman whose life has been dedicated to the advancement of others—especially to women. A Plumfund has been established for Rosemary to help fund her physical and speech therapies. Additionally, if you live a reasonable driving distance to Claremont, California, I invite you to visit Rosemary at her nursing home facility located on the Pilgrim Place campus. There is a need for additional people to assist those already spread thin in the visitation of Rosemary. A good place to start is to reach out to Theresa Yugar at: firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a day and time. The only requirement is a willingness to spend an hour or so with Rosemary. You can read to her, take her for a walk or work on any number of activities that stimulate her active mind.
Our lives are busy, very busy and it is understandable that this remarkable woman and her needs might slip from our rearview mirror. One way to remember Rosemary is to hold her in the light through prayer. This is one I find comforting, but naturally, find and use one that speaks to you.
May the light
Of the Goddess
Shine within you and
May her healing spirit
fill your heart
May Her wisdom guide you
May Her love embrace you
and may her peace
Bless you all the days
Of your life.
On behalf of Rosemary’s family and close-knit community, I thank you for your willingness to make both physical and speech therapies a reality and to assist in the healing of such a remarkable “Scholar Activist.
Cynthia Garrity-Bond is a feminist theologian and social ethicist, is completing her doctorate at Claremont Graduate University in women studies in religion with a secondary focus in theology, ethics and culture. Her research interests includes feminist sexual theology, historical theology with particular emphasis on religious movements of women, agency and resistance to ecclesial authority, embodiment, Mariology and transnational feminisms.