Monday, 8 August 2011

The Beauty Of Death - In memory of Gianni Ciofi Baffoni

“Dry your tears, my friends, and raise your heads as the flowers
Raise their crowns to greet the dawn.
Look at the bride of Death standing like a column of light
Between my bed and the infinite;
Hold your breath and listen with me to the beckoning rustle of
Her white wings.”
The Beauty Of Death - Khalil Gibran
For some reason, death has been a recurring theme in my life.  I am glad to be able to say that it has not yet happened to me personally.  But it has, unfortunately, happened to many people that I have known and loved. 
 I am not sure why it is that some people can reach my age and not know a single person that has died.  As for me, I have run out of digits on which to count them.
In the past few months I have lost two very dear friends to the inevitable. There are moments (like last night, after hearing of the death of a third) where I wonder if it has something to do with me?  As if coming into contact with me lifts your chances of immanent death. Do I have some kind of death curse surrounding me?  
The sad but true fact of the matter is this:
People die.
They do it all the time.
According to the information written in the Population Reference Bureau's 2010 World Population Data Sheet, 108 people have been busy shuffling off their mortal coils in the time that it has taken me to construct this sentence (about one minute).  That is 156,000 in a day and a whopping 56.7 million in a year.  Why is it that we (particularly in the west) live in such daily denial of this fact?  
Another fact is that I love people.  I collect them.  All shapes, sizes, ages, genders and nationalities.  I can’t get enough of them.  I love their stories, the things that they do and the different ways that they do them. I can spend hours a day alone in my studio but I need to connect with others (hence this blog and my unashamed love of fb).  So, I know quite a few people and the above quoted figures would suggest that it is entirely possible that some of them will die before me.  
Of the many gifts that my dead friends have given me, the most precious of all is how they remind me of the beauty of being alive.  Because of this gift, I seem to be turning into a very ambitious person.  It is not so much about rising to the top of some career ladder or earning piles of wealth.  It is the ambition to shove as much as possible into this life (of unknown length) that I have been given.  I want to experience and feel and create and connect.  I hope that I can die OLD ( AROUND THE AGE OF 93, ALONGSIDE CLARE MCGREGOR IN OUR RESPECTIVE ROCKING CHAIRS) and have at least a few moments to reflect on a life that was completely and utterly FULL.  I have written those words in capitals just in case the powers that be happen to be reading this.
I both love and hate funerals and wakes.  I hate them because they indicate that another person that I love has died. I love them because they are so incredibly real.  At these events everyone present seems to become so beautifully vulnerable, open and connected.  Something utterly profound is shared.
Apparently there are people that are addicted to hanging around hospices because the atmosphere around death is so heightened and charged that it has a drug like effect.  If only this intoxicating gift, that is given to us through being in contact with death, could be longer lasting.  If only we were all able to experience in each moment, how very precious these moments of life actually are.  
So today, instead of wallowing in the self pity that I am sorely tempted to wallow in, I am going to send  a big shout out of thanks to my beloved dead friends and family.  I am so blessed and gratefull to have had you in my life and so lucky to have learned so much from your deaths.

With endless love and enormous thanks to:

Gianni... mi hai fatto piangere dalle risate anche quando non avevo idea di quello che dicevi.
Zia Lalla

Wherever you all may be now...


  1. Dearest Emma, this is so touching and full of life itself...thanks for sharing. I have known only a few of the people on your shout-out list but love that you did this. And a shout out to you too for your love and life. xoxo, Debbie

  2. Thank-you for collecting me along the way Em. ♥

  3. wonderful heartfelt post. and timely for me, having just spent a week gallery sitting a death/grief exhibition and listening to people's stories as they spent time with the works. learning to be ok with their tears and not feel that i have to try to 'make them better'.has also given me a new appreciation for this wondrous thing called life.

  4. I'm so glad you wrote that in capitals because at 93 you will have to shout at me, from your adjacent rocking chair. One of us will tell a joke so good that we'll die laughing, simultaneously. Love you always. x

  5. u r so beautiful x



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