The A Graceful Death Exhibition and Project by Antonia Rolls is about what it means to die. Portraits, paintings and words from the end of life. Powerful, moving, loving, uplifting, inspiring. The A Graceful Death Project includes talks, presentations, discussions, events connected to awareness raising of end of life issues. The latest news, exhibitions, events and developments will be available here.
My Dublin Hosts had an email from their family friend, Isabel, in Canada, on being invited to the exhibition of A Graceful Death in Dublin. It would have been very amazing if this friend could have come, as she lives so far away. This is her reply, and I have her permission to include it, because I think she absolutely got the whole idea of the exhibition. I thought Isabel's reply was incredibly insightful and thoughtful. Here it is. Thank you Isabel. And thank you Brian, who gave his permission for us to know about how his wife died her graceful death. A quick note - I am known as Toni to some, Antonia to others. Toni in this account, is me.
"Wow, I wish I was there. It is rare in my experience for people to address death openly, acceptingly. But art is such a wonderful venue for difficult subjects; I'm certain your exhibition will be so much more than just an "art show". I'd love to be a fly on the wall...
Even as I check out her blog, view some of her paintings, I think of the only person I know personally who has been open, vulnerable and somehow inclusive in how he's dealt with death. And I feel compelled to tell you; oddly, because of Toni's paintings and your hosting of her works. My friend Brian's wife died from a quickly metastizing throat cancer that felled her within three months. He brought her home when they knew the time was close. She lived in a hospital bed that they set up in her room. On the day of her death, knowing her time was obviously rapidly approaching, he put her in her favourite dress, played her favourite music, and her family was all there, surrounding her. They all said goodbye, they all talked with her, laughed and wept at her bedside until she finally slipped away. I was moved by the way she ended her life, with dignity and love, despite her pain and difficulty in leaving her children, her step-children, her husband, her life. He shares that information willingly; while not at peace with her end, he embraces it wholly. I've come closer to acceptance of "the end", in his relating of her story, of her death.
Because death seems to be treated so mystically by religion and society, or brutally by the media, or without a thought (in denial) by people like me, the living, it's something special to see a person's life's end portrayed so gently, so clearly and transparently, and with a certain rawness, a reality, that I for one don't usually see. what appears potentially to have originated from a need to express one's grief (by Toni), seems to have become a gift, not only from the artist to the viewer, but also from the dying to the living. That these people are willing to share such vulnerability at such a time...to remove the taboo, to create something transcendental from such a painful experience; that's an awe-inspiring gift. I hope the gift was somehow returned to the givers, those that allowed themselves to be observed in their final hours. And to Toni, who portrays them in their "graceful death".
This, all this, from the simple viewing of an artist's blog because of your most appreciated (but unfortately declined!) invitation. I wonder what kind of cathartic sharing will occur at your exhibition...I expect it will have been a very moving weekend."
Isabel, and Brian, thank you. I hope we meet again one day.