"You drive hard to get yourself ahead and you want to be better than everyone else when you are young; and the more you live the more you find that that's not as important as you think. The fact is, as you get older you don't compete as much. You don't have to compete as much. Now, aging is no fun. You lose a lot - you lose people, you lose your health, but again you gain otherwise. You find that you have more time to look around. See life. See how beautiful it is. See a tree as it really is. And the same even with human beings; I feel a draw to them much more and I feel I can identify with them a little better because I know a little better now.
The closeness of human beings to one another and the beauty of it all is something that has been fairly new with me. I had a very great deal of difficult with my parents and I couldn’t stand the fact of being around my family. I felt something was wrong but I couldn’t lay my finger on it and when I finally had the stroke I saw exactly what happened, that he raped me when I was four years old. I always thought something was wrong with me but I couldn’t put my finger on it and then suddenly I saw what happened to me and I understood. And understood the pain that I went through and it made me feel so much more relieved. Tremendous relief. I started to live more intensely.
This happened when I was 72. That doesn't give me much years. I'm sick as a dog, I know that, and I try my best to forget that. But the feeling of giving up life now is very hard because it's too beautiful. I find myself becoming part of that beauty. It's in me. I don't believe I am that important anymore, but I am part of the whole."
Bert and I met at the Yountville VA Medical Center where he had been moved onto hospice care due to congestive heart failure. On our first meeting Bert gave me a copy of a book he had put together of his paintings and poems. Bert reflected on his life as a Jewish man born in 1920s New York who worked as an accountant and had a wife and three children. With sadness he remembered how he used to be a person who was afraid of the world and getting close to people. For Bert, life really changed at 72 years old when a stroke revealed the memory of a terrible event. Bert shared with me what he found to be left over when he thought he had lost everything – something that had been there all along but he hadn’t had the time to see.