Today I woke up with my usual routine of drinking coffee while perusing the headlines in the New York Times online. I was saddened to discover of Paul Newman’s passing on the front page. I had recently heard that he was not well, but that was the extent of my knowledge. His passing has caused me to contemplate about my fascination with death and why I am so inherently drawn to it.
I did a Paul Newman internet search and found a beautiful picture (one of many) of him. I printed it and hung it on my large metal board. Then as I took a step back and observed the board, I noticed a peculiar trend emerging—a lot of beautiful deceased men, including Marcello Mastroianni, Yves St. Laurent, Bobby Fisher, a professor from Oberlin, Nick Drake, a picture of male ghost (that I unknowingly took on my honeymoon in Saint Augustine, Florida), and several pictures of Michael, who will someday, just like of all the other beautiful dead men that surround him, meet the same fate.
On March 31, 2005 (my birthday), the New York Times obituaries had an enormous impact on my macabre interest. I was at work, again staying true to form, drinking coffee and perusing the New York Times (this time a hard copy). I flipped to the obituaries and as soon as I folded the page back, I noticed a lovely picture of a young boy. His name was Damon Daniel Weber and he had died the night before from post-transplant infection at the age of 16, battling congenital heart disease. I was incredibly moved by the eulogy and this young person’s life. I cut out the picture and eulogy and stowed it away for safe keeping.
I hadn’t hung up Damon on my board, but after reading about Newman, I dug through my tin boxes and finally re-found the obit, a little weathered an crinkled. After I hung him up, I realized that I had to make my magnetic board into an “official” memorial to those men who’ve touched me in some indirect way (no one that I know personally has made it up there yet—but this too will change).
I write about this now, on this blog because death is a huge part of my artistic process. I can’t escape it. Death haunts me in a way that I will probably never understand until it is finally at my front steps waiting to whisk me away.
Below, I have copied and pasted Damon’s eulogy from the New York Times. Damon was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. I should drive down to the NYC, spend some quiet time with him, and pay my respects. I’m amazed at how well Damon lived his life for such a young person. He knew how to do it better than most of us who can barely manage to muddle blindly through life at best.
EULOGY WEBER–Damon Daniel. 16, died on March 30, 2005, from a post-transplant infection he fought like the lion he was. He had greater strength, courage and dignity than any man. Damon was born in Brooklyn on August 8, 1988 and lived a full, active and creative life despite severe congenital heart disease. He was fearless and determined and full of love and never felt sorry for himself. He had many passions, but acting was his first love. He made his television debut on the hit HBO series Deadwood 10 days before he died. Previously he appeared on stage in The Great Kapock Tree, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, The King and I, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Guys and Dolls, Frog Prince and Cindafella. He also performed at the Provincetown Playhouse in Cymbeline, Pericles and Romeo and Juliet. At Brooklyn Technical High School, Damon appeared in The Importance of Being Ernest, Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Tommy. As vice president of the drama club he made a brilliant directorial debut with The Man Who Came to Dinner. A gifted student and avid reader, Damon attended the Rockefeller Children’s School, P.S. 29 where he graduated with highest honors and the Salk School of Science where he won the Literature prize, the Science Prize and the prize for Outstanding Student. He wrote beautifully (though his spelling needed work). He planned to graduate Brooklyn Tech next year and go on to a career in acting and international relations. A born diplomat, Damon attended special events at the Council of Foreign Relations and hoped to intern there. Damon was a natural leader and explorer and enjoyed summers in the Adirondacks, Truro, Martha’s Vineyard and family homes in the Catskills and the Isle of Skye. He led his younger siblings, Sam and Miranda, on many exiting adventures. He also read out loud to them for hours, made up his own spellbinding stories and created magical home theatricals and puppet shows. He liked sailing, kayaking and horseback riding. Perhaps Damon’s greatest gift was for friendship. He had many close, dear friends and tended each one with love and care. He kept his friends, who ranged in age from the very young to the old. He had deep wells of empathy and kindness and sensitivity, even for strangers. He also possessed insight and wisdom beyond his years. He was gregarious and hosted many large parties and sleepovers at his house, where everyone was always welcome. And he could be wickedly funny, with impeccable mimicry and timing. Damon had striking red hair, blue eyes and pale skin. He was beautiful, inside and out. He had a powerful moral force, purity of character and integrity rare in this world. He will be mourned every moment of every day by his heartbroken father, Doron Weber, who tried desperately to save his adored, firstborn son and flesh of his flesh, and by his grieving mother, Shealah Weber, who poured all her brave love and generous spirit into this amazing child. His brother Sam and his sister Miranda will never forget their extraordinary sibling. His grandparents Robert and Helga Weber cared for Damon with all their hearts. He was loved by many aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmother, and friends. Funeral services on Monday, April 4, at Temple Beth Emeth in Brooklyn and burial at The Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. In lieu of flowers donations can be sent to The Damon Weber Prize for Acting and Directing at Brooklyn Tech, c/o Temple Beth Emeth, 83 Marlborough Road, Brooklyn, NY 11226.