Contemplating Death/ Religion and Spiritualism as a Antidote to the Fear of the Inevitability of Death

Essay by Luke Foster

“Death is a challenge. It tells us not to waste time. It tells us to tell each other right now that we love each other.” – Leo Buscaglia

When I was a teenager finishing up my final year of school my major work in art was a series of four large crayon drawings. They were a bit kitsch and tacky but the idea of one was profound. It featured an old mans face in a church with the stained glass window in the background. I titled it: “ Contemplating Death”. So ever since a teenager I worried deeply about my own mortality and the mortality of those I loved.

In a way it was the start of a life long search of questioning how to make the best of life but more importantly how to cope with the death of those I love.

In the first week of art school at the age of eighteen my best friend died in a work place accident as he was working in a wooden boat yard and hit a live wire while using a high pressure water hose.

It threw me into a deep funk of depression and my only solace was when I was drawing or surfing as both were a release of the deep sadness and a window into my soul.

I am not an atheist but I believe when you die I feel that is it. However most people who embrace spiritualism and religion believe that when you die you go to some place better or come back to life in another form as another animal or human.

Subsequently I have searched most of the worlds religions not so I have belief of a rebirth or after life but so I can live this life deliberately with compassion, love, humour, creativity and fun.

“One clings to life although there is nothing to be called life; another clings to death although there is nothing to be called death. In reality, there is nothing to be born; consequently, there is nothing to perish.” Buddha

The passing of my best friend Nick as a young adult prepared me for the death of my grandmother in my early twenties and two of my female friends from art school who were very successful contemporary artists: Kathy Cavaliere and Nerine Martini. Both passed away in painful deaths from cancer one aged forty the other fifty. However when they died I didn’t grieve as much however I was definitely sad but it was nothing compared to the trauma and agony when I lost my best friend and grandmother where at their funerals I didn’t cry but openly wept.

Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received – only what you have given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.”

Francis of Assisi

The teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi and Buddha have given me the most solace when I come to grips of loss of loved ones in my life.

Both Katthy and Nerine were deeply spiritual and their art reflected that.

After Katthy’s mother died she was cremated and the ashes were put into a sand timer I think that’s the phrase by Katthy as an artwork about the brevity of life but her relatives were disturbed and thought it was in poor taste.

It’s hard to believe sometimes that they are gone as we had so many great times at art school and the years after art school where we became true exhibiting artists. Nerine has left behind son Guy and ex partner Craig and whenever I visit Sydney I try to meet up with them and share stories about Nerine.

The hardest thing about death is that you never know when you are going to go. I always think that I shall live to at least ninety and I am only a bit over half way but you never know. I hope that I live to one hundred as I love life so much and feel l have a lot to contribute.