by Rhonda Massad
On September 20, Cafe Maurizio in Kirkland was packed to the maximum with family and friends celebrating the life of recently deceased Kirkland Councillor Tony Di Gennaro. The event was put together by his friend and fellow Councillor John Morson. Di Gennaro was a fixture at Maurizio’s so the venue was well chosen. He was clearly loved and respected by a community that continues to mourn this loss.
As people were set to leave they found themselves walking past three very large chalkboards that were placed there as part of the Before I Die global art project that invites people to contemplate death and reflect on their lives. Originally created by the artist Candy Chang on an abandoned house in New Orleans after she lost someone she loved, today there are over 2,000 walls around the world.
ORA Loss & Living Outreach Program, a new support service being implemented in the West Island of Montreal and surroundings, is presently working on the Before I die initiative. Di Gennaro would have been proud to see the initiative not only in Kirkland but tucked neatly outside his memorial celebration where donations were made benefiting his favorite charity, The Lakeshore General Hospital Foundation.
With the goal of promoting life, this project invites people to reflect on their own lives and share their personal aspirations in public spaces. Originating in New Orleans, more than 2000 walls have been created in over 70 countries.
Getting caught up in the day-to-day often makes it easy to forget what is important. This initiative aims at making people stop and take time to think about what really matters to them, their relationships, and their relationship with death.
It doesn’t cost anything and the hope is that passersby will find meaning and pleasure in writing on this temporary wall that has traveled throughout the city this summer.