When you move a lot from one house to another you realize how much stuff you have. Especially a painter who makes even more stuff to hang on walls realizes the accumulation with every move. I developed my own philosophy about gathering stuff. I am a person who loves to buy new things. As I develop my taste for more exclusive items I always seem to find better objects, more beautiful, more shiny or more enriching. The older ones all of a sudden seem dull by comparison and what do you do with the dusty stuff?
The dilemma seems ludicrous sitting next to my dying father who needs to let go of much more than material things. I found a poem which expresses beautiful the words that encourages to let go but I feel that words are not enough. How does it feel for him standing on the threshold of entering eternity? Of course it is impossible to drag the heavy dressoir of my grandmother to the gates of heaven but even if it would be possible, why would you want to? It is another world entirely.
So if you don’t need all that stuff anyway why buy it? Because we live today in a material world with a dense body. I love to surround myself with stuff. This life on Earth is so dense, with heavy objects like cars and furniture. Especially our clothes in a cold climate where the temperature tomorrow will be twenty degrees requires heavy boots to walk over frozen paths. I cannot help thinking about all this because I want to understand the feeling my father is going through now he cannot speak anymore.
He cannot take his memories with him, all the things he has learned over time, the experiences he has built, nothing goes with him. Is it an art to learn how to die if we all are going to do this only once? Can I learn from him how to do it? What else do you take with you other than your soul, your essence? When I saw my father last Sunday he could still speak some short sentences. He said, “I don’t think I will live that much longer’ ‘No, I said, I don’t think either, since you have not eaten or drunk anything for a week”. “But, he said, If the weather is beautiful I want to be outside and work. There is still so much I want to do” so, all that, he needs to let go off. He needs to let go of the drive to live.
The way the sunlight hits a leaf or a flower is not material, neither is the fog over the meadows or a kiss in moonlight. My father always made an art of letting plants grow in a way he designed it in his head. When it grew into a beautiful yard he would sit smack in the middle of it and listen to the birds. As children we thought this was boring, but later I learned to appreciate it. All of this he had to let go off. A smile of a loved one, a thought of something to build, a plan to travel… it is not only material stuff that he need to let go of.
Sitting next to him writing this while his breathing is heavy. It is art that moves beyond stuff.