Art of Dying Volume One - Page 43

“I was looking for people who were willing to let a stranger, and more specifically an artist, into their life at one of the most vulnerable points of their existence.”  CLAUDIA BIÇEN Thoughts In Passing wasn’t a scientific project where I represented every experience of what it means to be dying. I was looking for people who were willing to let a stranger– and more specifically an artist– into their life at one of the most vulnerable points of their existence. I don’t think many people seek that experience. In order to do that, they need to be very open and accepting– which is a very small proportion of people in hospice. The sole purpose of my being there was for them to tell me about what they were feeling and going through. It wasn’t therapy. I wasn’t trying to solve their problems. I wasn’t being paid. I think that made our relationship an important one. We often dived into deep conversations that most people don’t have. This built a trust between us because if they asked me questions about my life, thoughts, or fears, I shared my views and put my vulnerability on the line. It certainly wasn’t a one-way process. All of my subjects were accepting of death except for one. Osamu ruggedly held on to the belief that he was not sick. You could tell that this was a very strong defense mechanism for him. Initially, I said that I would only work with people who were very open about the fact that they were dying and accepting of it. It was easier for me to delve into the issues if they were willing to talk about it. Having Osamu as a part of the project was very important because some might have come away thinking that everybody meets death in a peaceful and accepting way. That is certainly not the case. I worked with very ordinary people. Sometimes I would interview a person week after week. Many interviews were hours of normal conversation. I spoke with nine people who had lived their lives in different ways with their own sets of values and experiences. These were people who really hadn’t had a huge revelation at the end of their life; and had not suddenly become enlightened beings. VOLUME I | 43