On Death and Dying

I am all too used to those crazy calls at early hours in the morning.  You have had them.  And if you have not, I am so incredibly happy for you.

They start like this, “Have you heard?”  “Word has it…” “A post on Facebook says…”  And they message goes on to say that someone you love, trust – and all of those other words that accentuate the first two words – has died in a horrible place under horrible circumstances.  Boom.

The DRAMA, The CHAOS, The ANGER, The CONFUSION – they all over power what lies just underneath which are the sadness, the void – quieter but so necessary to process.  Grief.

So when the text came through that someone I consider to be my surrogate father (from his most wonderful daughter who I adore) had decided that it was time to move on past his failing body – a body that would not allow him to create his beautiful works of art anymore – I paused while lying in bed with my son, Theo.

Artist Ken Price works on a recent sculpture in his Taos studio, 2011.

What?  I have forewarning of an imminent departure?  So what the hell do I do with this?  I text her back and say, “Tell him I love him like my father.  That I am so thankful to have him in my life.”  “I will tell him,” she responds.  And then I cry.  I cry quietly, though.  Just the tears rolling down my cheeks.  So quietly that Theo does not even know that I am weeping.

And over the course of the next week, I meditate at every given chance for a smooth passage for both my friend and his wonderful family, who have come to mean so very much to me over the past decade.  I was able to teach myself about consciousness and death.  I had no contact with anyone while the process was happening, but that was ok.  I knew that he knew that I knew and that he was actually going to be better off on the other side then he was here.

Price chooses a tool to scrape the walls of a recent sculpture in his studio located north of Taos, New Mexico, 2011.

Many times after the violent deaths of dear friends, I have felt so far away – from what – I will never know.  Whether in Nairobi or in New York – rushing to be with others who are going through the same disbelief, the same pain, the same anger etc…

But as I settled into the fact that this friend was consciously choosing to leave now and that his family and hospice workers were helping that passage go as smoothly and painlessly as possible – I surrendered for the first time in my life, really – to anything.  I moved into a space where I could live life, talk with friends about what was happening sometimes – and many times say nothing.

Ken Price wanted me to photograph his hands just like this, exactly, on our last studio visit in 2011.

I am sure the person who sits in the office across from mine must be curious about the moments when tears would just burst out of my eyes – they would fall, the moment would be beautiful and then gone.  No stone in my heart.  No pit in my stomach.  Just being in the flow of the process.

So by the time the e-mail came from his daughter that he had passed, loving tears rolled down my cheeks, not those ones that come out with screams and anger.  Quiet.  Peaceful.

Those are terms that are not readily linked with anything to do with me or my past…  but that is about to change – no, actually, the change has already occurred.

Thank you, Kenny.  Thank you.


3 Responses to “On Death and Dying”

  1. 1 Kat McTee February 26, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    such a sad and beautiful world, this human world. thanks for your words, Judy.

  2. 3 Carolyn Ann Walgren February 27, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Beautiful explanation of your emotional processing, Judy. So glad you had that special man in your life. I know the beautiful memories of him and his work will remain with you forever. Love you.

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