Of Death and Dying

A friend is dying.  He retired at 72 from jobs that required lots of physical energy.  These were the jobs that put food on the table when his true vocation could not  support him nor his family.  He is/was an artist who produced  bold sculptures of the female form. 

For six years after retiring, he became the Artist in Residence at a local university where he never hesitated to show curious students just how he achieved a certain patina or how he welded one piece to another.  This man worked in several mediums from granite and wood to steel and cardboard.  If the female form was not recognizable in a piece, it might be because his love of mathematics took over causing pieces to double back on themselves in graceful waves.

Although he himself never attended a university, in his younger years he won a Fulbright Scholarship to study art in Florence, Italy. This experience, along with making jewelery for ten years in New York City helped to refine his work.  Even his big, bold pieces offered the viewer a sense of balance and controlled rhythm.

As a friend, I would describe him as “an artists’ artist”.  His mind was always engaged in creating a new piece.  He never engaged in small talk, yet he was ready to listen to any problem another artist was having.  He gave advice about creating or about appreciating a work of art when requested and shared his thoughts about his own work whenever asked.  His personal life did not run smooth until he was well into his sixties when he met and married another artist who gave him all of the room he needed to create. A gifted and cultured woman herself, she also provided him the opportunity to practice the kinds of social skills that gave him entrance into the art studios of colleges and universities.

Six months ago, at 85, he still worked four days a week on his sculpture and could carry two hundred pound pieces of granite when necessary. 

Three months ago, a pain in his arm was finally diagnosed as a cancer on his seventh vertebra.  Surgery gave him a brief respite from pain, but the disease spread ruthlessly.  The surgeons cannot recommend any further surgery as a means of relief.  Today, sadly, my friend whose great “Lady in High Heels” stands in my living room, is under heavy sedation.  Any little movement sends him into spasims of pain.  His vital signs continue to decline; he opens his eyes briefly when a new friend stands beside his bed.  Those of us who pray, ask the Powers That Be to relieve the burden of pain from the shoulders of a men who appreciated and who used the talent that he was given to improve and enlighten our world.  May he rest in peace.


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