Life, Lou Gehrig & The Bard Professor. The last time I saw him, he was walking with a cane. Now, he wasn’t walking at all. I came to UVU campus to take his portrait, something I’d wanted to do ever since learning of his diagnosis. As I pulled up, there he was at the curb sitting on a “Jazzy” (like the motorized scooter you see old people cruising around on in super markets).
Meet Christopher Clark
45, married, father of 5, an actor, a professor of Shakespeare & theater, and former department head of UVU’s College of Theater. He’s directed dozens of plays, taught thousands of kids, and doctors have diagnosed him with Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s commonly called A.L.S. –think the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Click the audio links to hear Chris in his own words talking about life, Shakespeare and being diagnosed with a crappy, life altering disease called Lou Gehrig.
It’s going to roll right over you and so might as well just enjoy the flattening.”
After training with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Chris made his way back to the states, and eventually started teaching at UVU as an adjunct professor. That was 15 years ago. He took a full-time position in 2005 and later became the department chair of the theater department. Because of this, he has access to their vast collection of wardrobe and props.
Chris on his Jazzy and students David Nuffer and Ramsey Kiefer helping Chris change his wardrobe.
It’s made me appreciate things that are important and shun things that are stupid.”
It’s odd how we modern humans talk about disease. We fight cancer, live with M.S. and control our diabetes, but Lou Gehrig’s is different. You don’t fight it, there’s no controlling it. You don’t live with it, it lives with you, everyday robbing you of little things you take for granted. It’s a disease that steals your motor skills and elimination diagnosis it. If it’ s not M.S., nerve damage, etc., it must be A.L.S. That’s what Chris is facing, brutal for a guy who’s extremely social and has such an impact on others.
Perhaps my favorite photo of Chris is the one of him standing as a Lion. Because he’s leaned against the chair for support, but there he is standing tall in defiance, proud and vulnerable at the same time.
My son Ramsey assisted me that day and after we left he said, “Man, that is one chill guy.”
All I could do was nod my head and reply, “Yeah, Chris is one chill guy.”
He’s facing life with ALS the way we should be facing life, with wit and style.
This shoot was several months ago. Today Chris is confined to an electric wheelchair, his oldest boy is his full time care taker. He slurs his speech, but he’s kept his weight on, and given the circumstances his looks good. Most of all, he’s kept his sense of humor. Therefore, not much has changed because of Lou Gehrig’s.
Here’s to you Chris.
Special thanks to Ramsey Kiefer, David Nuffer, and Utah Valley University.