Hammer is dying. At seventy-nine, she has lived with cancer for thirteen years and has exhausted all available treatment options. She has spoken publicly, repeatedly, about her impending death, both as an artist reflecting on her creative life and as an activist for allowing terminally ill patients to take charge of the dying process.
Hammer is a pioneering visual artist known primarily for her films, most of which deal with lesbians, personal histories, and the body.
The wonderful thing about dying is the interesting processes. I find it fascinating as an artist and as a writer. Your ability to talk in the world is changing. And you still remember what you used to be able to do. I can’t read, but I can still listen to Florrie read to me. I can still listen to the radio. There are things that I can delight in. Just to see the changes is what I always wanted. What is it like to die? Why don’t we know? I try to take notes on it. It is harder to write now. I don’t really feel like going into so many details when pain hits hard, though I kind of feel like I should. I mean, what am I? An investigator, an archeologist.
I knew there would be hardships. There would be things I’d have to change and I couldn’t be who I was always and I had to learn how to love in ways that I hadn’t before. It’s been a long process. We both have been through cancer.
We can also think of a way to speak about this late in life: as I’m dying, you can make love to a certain degree. I can’t say all the way, but one doesn’t have to give up on sexual experience with your lover as you’re progressing through the state of dying.
She said she had something to tell me but that she was afraid. I reached for her trembling hand, telling her sweetly, naïvely, that it would be...