Thursday, January 18, 2007

Art Buchwald, 1925-2007


Nina Bramhall for The New York Times

We've lost one of our great national treasures, Art Buchwald. As recalled by AP writer Darlene Superville, his last year was both dramatic and inspiring.
Buchwald had refused dialysis treatments for his failing kidneys last year and was expected to die within weeks of moving to a hospice on Feb. 7. But he lived to return home and even write a book about his experiences. "The last year he had the opportunity for a victory lap and I think he was really grateful for it," Joel Buchwald said. "He had an opportunity to write his book about his experience and he went out the way he wanted to go, on his own terms."

Neither Buchwald nor his doctors could explain how he survived in such grave condition, and he didn't seem to mind. The unexpected lease on life gave Buchwald time for an extended and extraordinarily public goodbye, as he held court daily in a hospice salon with a procession of family, friends and acquaintances. "I'm going out the way very few people do," he told The Associated Press in April.

Buchwald said in numerous interviews after his decision became public that he was not afraid to die, that he was not depressed about his fate and that he was, in fact, having the time of his life.
He was an amazing writer, a marvelous comic voice, and a great, courageous spirit. This photo, and the accompanying NYT article written after he miraculously improved in the hospice against all odds and returned home and went on to write another book, is how I like to remember him -- finding such happiness with his family at the end of a long, achieving life that started with a very miserable childhood.

He appeared on the public radio talk show "On Point" just before Christmas. Check out the streaming audio on their website. One of the most incredible thing's I've ever heard -- especially after his old friend, nearly 90-year-old Mike Wallace, made a surprise visit. (Wallace, Buchwald and novelist William Styron had formed their own support group when all were struck by serious bouts of depression.)

I'll never forget it. There was weariness in Art's voice, and you could tell that he wasn't exactly in the peak of health. But every minute he was on the air, you could feel his sense of humor and his joy in life. And his spirit was indomitable.

1 comment:

TRS said...

Yours is a great blog. Glad to have found it. I'm the founder of a non-profit website called The Remembering Site. We make it easy for anyone, anywhere to write their life stories. I'm posting comments on blogs that talk about Art Buchwald who - of course - recently died and recently published a great memoir, To Soon To Say Goodbye. Grateful if you could profile us on your blog to encourage your readers to write their biography/memoir at The Remembering Site.