4th stage of cancer, there is no 5th phase
I love the light at the end of summer: long shadows, deep green and subtle softness that makes the photographed skin shine. The end of August is for me the time to photograph all the ideas I’ve collected in my notebook throughout the year. The end of summer is also a time of special intimacy, which appears every time I look at my beloved persons through camera lenses. Photography is for me a companion in closeness. And my father was the main character of my photo series in recent years.
At the beginning of June, we got the diagnosis: the fourth stage of cancer, there is no fifth. A vision of the last moments together appeared before us.
Illness can be a humiliating and meaningless act, but it can also be a study of love and reconciliation with our own mortality. It may be an attempt to look at this tragic but unavoidable phenomenon reasonably and without fear. So much for theory. In practice, I wanted to find a way to learn to perceive beauty in these extremely difficult moments.
Creativity has always been my way to carefully look at the world from other points of view that are necessary for gaining knowledge. That is why I decided to use art and embroidering to think about what was happening around me. I involved my relatives in that process. My mother helped me measure, cut the fabric, and sew it with the machine, later my son and husband helped me with making up the pattern and arranging the space for embroidering (they would often hide me from my dad so that he would not discover the surprise). I gave him the scarf a few days after shaving his head, as his “new hair”. Dad wore it, he always had it with him.
The act of embroidering itself was related to taming the disease and learning to accept the emotions. I knew that I could not overcome death, I could only ensure that the circumstances of dying – loneliness, suffering, social exclusion – were as painless as possible. In a short time, I had to learn to treat illness and dying as a part of my life, to be able to approach both processes carefully and to finally appreciate the beauty of the last moments with each other. Experiencing dad’s disease was also about looking at my beautiful mother who was in a hurry to prepare the house and bake a cake for the return of her beloved husband from the hospital. It was also the last cream puff and coffee taken together, the last read book, the return to your favorite song. Such little things acquire an extraordinary significance in their finality.
Dad resembled a Native American, with his hazel, deep-set eyes, his curved nose, his long black hair, and his back looking like loaves of bread. The nickname “Cochise” stuck to him in his youth, and with age it only got stronger. He was a Native American to me from my childhood. The loss of hair caused by the chemotherapy was therefore not only a change in appearance for him, but also a loss of a piece of identity. This is why the main motif of the headscarf was feathers from a headdress, which had a religious significance among the Native Americans, it was even used as a magical protective talisman.
I put the headscarf on his head after his death, while preparing and washing the body (it is also a good idea to tie a scarf on the jaw before the body cools down, so that it does not fall down and the mouth is not open).
The headscarf was cremated with my father. The very process of creating a headscarf and its presence in our reality was a symbol of the struggle for a good life with illness and dying
The story and photographic documentation of making a headscarf for my ailing father, which eventually became a symbol of learning what good dying is.