Updated: Jul 30
Its an early Saturday morning in February 2021 and I'm out in my shop as I usually am listening to a documentary or some thing interesting on the computer, coffee at hand, a fire rolling in the stove, a faint smell of leather, pencils and art paper with snow on the way tonight . A recommendation shows up as I scroll the internet page I'm on. Its a short Doc on Herbert Fingarette, a philosopher who is now 97 years old and facing his own mortality, facing and talking openly about death and dying.
Sitting in his home.
He is a brilliant man, even in old age, slow to move, soft spoken but very deliberate in what he is doing. He is still thinking it all through as philosophers do. Even eating his breakfast that was brought to him by a care taker is something to examine. He approaches each step as if its a work of art in progress, almost falling in love with the food she cooked for him. Quite a sight to see and very endearing. He speaks in a soft, slightly labored and lispy way , but, his vocabulary and pace when he speaks sits you in your seat to listen. Not just to hear but to pay attention . He is a man who continues to ponder life and the meaning of it, it's evident in his eyes when you catch them in frame.
I remember this Documentary well, I ran across it a while ago and watched it, it's a short doc so I remember watching it a few times just fascinated with him for some reasons. How he narrated his life , thoughts and feelings , when he spoke about his wife, the music , all of it. If I had to compare it to something it would be sitting with a magical Grandfather when you were very young telling stories of life, real stories, tales of experience that enlighten you. We need that, we need the stories to be told to us, to keep them alive and pass them down or over to the next generation as well as share them when someone asks. They're enlightening and enriching .
Pondering death though, is something I think we all do at certain times in life. Understanding there are a handful of the bunch that never have, yet, are afraid to, prefer to avoid or feel its taboo . However , it's a topic that deserves attention from all of us. After all, one by one we'll find ourselves face to face with death. Each day we're closer , for some, each step, for some the next breath is it. So to become comfortable in that moment we need to visit the feeling of no longer being here, no longer participating in this life, its unavoidable so why avoid it.
Leaving His Kitchen.
When I was young and first learned about the Bible and reading and learning about Jesus, I remember finding out how Jesus died or I should say killed. At the time I was too young to understand killing and murder, but dying I intuitively understood. I remember thinking that we all died that way, Jesus was my only reference for a human dying so to me its how we all died and that was torture to think about, it terrified me for a long time. I can't recall the exact age but we were living in Queens NY at the time and I was in nursery school at St Phillips and St James. After a while that left me and the feeling never returned. So, If you contemplate life, you have to contemplate death, its part of life. It may be seen as the end of life here but its still part of the process of being alive, we're alive as we die , its not a separate thing that happens to us.
To contemplate death is like reading a map before a trip, you get familiar with the path you'll be on. It helps us navigate. Sure we'll slow down, may need help with certain things, but that's part of the path. We'll have to change the way we do things, we'll have to approach the things we like to do in a different way, but that's part of the path, Our diets will change because our bodies will need different foods and not tolerate foods we always ate, it's part of the path. What we see in the mirror will change greatly , but it always has. It's part of the path. None of this is a worry and shouldn't be.
Be sure though , that your path is full as you move forward, overflowing with the things you've done, things you created, victory as well as failure, the people you've touched, the people you've helped along the way in finding their path, and when you saw them wander off you pointed to show them the way back. Leave as much here as you can, in good hands. Your life is and has been preparing you for death, you just never realized it, so make the most of your life and be aware of this , do the things you always dreamt about doing, stop waiting and do them. The day you greet death is approaching , and with each minute that day is closer to you.
Be Mindful of Death , You can't avoid it.
At 97 Drawing with Charcoal
Photos are not mine, they're from the film.