My dear friend Morris Arrari passed away on April 6, 2008 in Maplewood New Jersey. Diagnosed with colon cancer, he struggled with the disease for nearly two years.
Morris was a man of many many parts. He was a fashion designer in Paris for thirty years, working with Dior, Givenchy, Nina Ricci and Salvatore Ferragamo. His fashion illustrations ran in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle. He also explored his hand in painting, drawing and printmaking. (An example of one of his prints is posted on Slow Painters.) In addition to his visual prowess, Morris was unendingly well read and verbally eloquent. Some of my liveliest discussions about art and life were with him.
On Thursday we held a memorial service at the home where he died. The house was filled with people who knew Morris, and the stories flowed out of everyone, effortlessly. The more I heard, the more awestruck I was by how far reaching his gifts were, how many people’s lives he touched, and how powerfully he will live on in memory.
Morris asked me to speak at his funeral, which I did with honor. The highlight for me however was hearing the remarks made by mutual friend and writer extraordinaire Andrew Kimball who shared the podium with me. Morris spent most of his last chapter of life in Andrew and Kathryn’s Maplewood home, so Andrew has been a witness to Morris’ slow exit. That witnessing has been a deeply profound journey, and one that I am in his debt for documenting. Here is an excerpt from Andrew’s remarks:
Morris said once he would choose to return to earth — should that be our destiny — as a bird, high above hospital rooms, stomas, the gracelessness of ordinary manners — his artist’s eye quickened by the earth’s spiny geology, its interlocking clays and ores, its patterned waterways, the play of shadow across the landscape – observed this time from a distance.
“I was listening,” he wrote a half year ago, “ to a beautiful song by Patty Griffin about kites while on the train from Long Island. It was about the dreams of childhood. I had spent the day with my sister, nieces, and baby Louis who was passed around from one loving pair of arms to another. I said to myself, how wonderful for this little boy to be so loved and caressed. I fell asleep at some point, dozed off from the rocking of the train. When I woke, there seated in front of me was a visibly perturbed man staring fixedly at me, babbling and laughing to himself, sucking a finger, fidgety. The song, the baby, this man . . . I wondered sadly, wistfully what happens to either warp or construct our lives? how fragile we are.”
The complete content of the memorial service has been posted on Morris Arrari.
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