One day, when I was still a kid, my parents took me to a video game rental store. I remember thinking “Wait, this is not the weekend. What is wrong? Should I tell them?”. Being a kid, I did the obvious, kept my mouth shut and enjoyed Mega Man. Later on trying to kill Cutman, I had already forgotten about asking them if something was wrong. I was 9.
There was also this other time, when my parents invited me to go to a colleague’s place during the afternoon to play with their son. I wasn’t really friends with him, which was a bit weird, but what the heck, one could not refuse swimming pools. I was 10.
My oldest memory of bursting out in tears is probably an odd one. It was while watching “Donald in Mathmagic Land”. Amidst those acid-inspired graphics, Pythagoras, golden proportion, fibonacci and other stuff, there was this part about how math was present in our everyday life, in objects, people, nature and things. I spiraled out.
Turns out I wasn’t outsmarting my parents in those two occasions. I was 09 when my grandfather Fausto died and 10 when Isabella, my sister, did. My sister Lucy and I didn’t attend any of the funerals.
Death is (was) a difficult subject for me. That is why I bursted out crying when watching Donald. I was thinking about how things and people vanish and cease to exist. I remember panicking at the thought of not existing anymore, of disappearing. It was always on the backburner.
Two days after my 25th birthday, my uncle, also named Fausto, passed away. This time I didn’t need my parents to protect me from death. I chose to do so myself. I was too afraid to face it, to go to his funeral, to mourn with my family. I blanked. To be honest, it would be still a couple of years until I finally set foot at a funeral. It was when my friend Ana’s father passed away.
The handsome guy on the photo is my grandfather Bernardino. I was visiting him back in Belém one day. I sat with him and we started going through old photo books, when I noticed this poster rolled back behind his desk. I guess the sentience of our mortality comes with time & experiences.
I asked about it and he unrolled it proudly and told its story to me. He had a brother, Antonio Henriques (also my father’s name) who died from a car accident when he was 23. Back at his office, in the factory, he had a photo of Antonio on the wall. It was impossible to walk into his office and not notice it.
My grandfather told me he had intended for his own portrait to be hung on the same wall after he passed away. So everyone that would walk in could see the two together.
I remember being quite shocked at the time, I could barely deal with thoughts about death and there was my grandfather already making plans for his.
April this year, I had just arrived in Barcelona and was walking around town with a friend of a friend that I had just met. Lucy was calling me incessantly, when I finally answered, she gave me the news. As all lives eventually do, my grandfather’s had ended.
That was when I had finally chose to face death, to embrace and to accept it. It was not only about his death, but also about mine. Until then, I had always found those clichés about our mortality and making sure we enjoyed our days to the fullest to be quite cheesy.
Well, his passing hit me hard and that is the story of how I ended up living here in Berlin. Facing my mortality, facing the fact that I’m now 30, facing the fact that I only have one life and I need to live it as I please. Not lying to myself or making excuses. It took me a while. Perhaps in a few years I'll also be making post-mortem plans.
Anyway, did I tell you that my grandfather was an excellent photographer? He would turn 87 in a couple of days. And I have yet to fulfill his wish: next time I'm in Belém, I will frame that poster.
Berlin, December 6th of 2016.