When an old person dies, the part that makes it so difficult is that
we will never see or touch or hear that person ever again.
Nevertheless we are grateful for the time we had with them, and we're
comforted in the knowledge that they lived a long, full life. But
when a young person dies, we also think about the life missed, the
unrealized potential, and the fact that they were cheated out on that
long full life. Linda was cheated, because she was a strong lady
and had great potential, and she demonstrated this strength and
potential many times in her life.
I remember when I was about 8 or 9 years old, and Linda was maybe 13, my bicycle was stolen by Randy Anderkawicz and Johnny Carlucci, two filthy street kids that lived on our block. Randy was a mean son-of-a-bitch, and Johnny was his lieutenant in training. Randy eventually went on to get shot and killed by a cop whom he had assaulted because the cop was going to testify against him. Well, he was pretty vicious even at age 11, but Linda was determined to help me get my bicycle back. Since Johnny was my age and size, I would fight him, and since Linda was closer to Randy's size, she was going to have to fight Randy over it. These kids fought dirty, literally throwing dirt from the street into our eyes to blind us before they attacked. We both got torn apart pretty badly but Linda did plenty of damage to Randy. Then Johnny's mother came outside and broke up the fight. She screamed at Randy for fighting with a girl and made him give the bicycle back. But after that day, no one in the neighborhood dared mess with Linda, and Randy developed a lot of respect for Linda and never crossed her again.
Linda was the one whose strong will trained my parents. Our older brother, Richard, as heir apparent, would normally be considered first in line to train the parents when we were growing up. But he will freely admit Linda not only had all the artistic talent in the family, she also possessed all the talent to redefine the boundaries my parents had set for us. Linda was the one who took the A train up to Music and Art High School when she was 15 years old. Linda was the one who insisted on playing on the volleyball team. Linda was the one who spent her junior year at Smith College away from Northampton in Italy studying art. Linda was the one who eloped. Linda was the one who drove a taxi during her early years as a struggling artist. And Linda was the one who spent a glorious year traveling, scuba-diving, and photographing in the South Pacific when she was old enough to afford it yet young enough to enjoy it.
But in addition to her great strength, Linda also had her compassionate side. I saw this side in how she cared for my father when he was ill. I saw this compassion when she was together with Carlos many years ago. And I saw this again more recently, as Linda had a very special place in her heart for Roman. She fastidiously tended to Roman’s round-the-clock need for nourishment, carefully monitoring what went into his mouth and when, and measuring precisely how much. She admitted she had to re-learn how to cook, so that she could be sure to omit anything that might trigger Roman’s allergies.
And she shared this compassionate side with Roman. Roman - while I've known you throughout your time together, I was fortunate to see a very compassionate side of you these past seven months. From the moment Linda was diagnosed through to her very last breath, Roman not only remained faithfully by her side, but he also provided round-the-clock nursing care for her, carefully changing the daily dressing on a skin tumor that burst and almost took her life months ago, sacrificing of himself no matter what she needed. Roman -this was Linda’s greatest comfort during this difficult time, and everyone in our family is forever grateful to you for standing by her like the truest possible companion. Thank you, Roman.
Linda was also fiercely loyal to me as her baby brother. When I first moved back to New York, she tried to fix me up with one of her closest friends. Her friend confessed to me years later that she and Linda once had a very scary conversation around that time. Apparently Linda had warned her and said: “You know you’re one of my dearest friends, right? Well, if you and Steven start going out, and things progress to the point where you get married, that would really be great. But if afterwards, things didn’t work out so well and you guys had to get a divorce, well, I hope you realize I would have to side with Steven”.
But aside from her strength and compassion, Linda’s creative side was undoubtedly her greatest asset. And photography was a passion of Linda’s that she was able to creatively merge with her fine arts training. She developed into a fine photographer, and was able to share this passion with Roman. She developed quite a following of students of the craft, including myself. Linda always had an opinion on photography, and she was always willing to share it with you so that you could learn from her, whether you were ready for her opinion or not. It was quite clear she had a tremendous influence on people through her photography.
As an example, I discovered a postcard on her refrigerator that I had forgotten I had sent her from the Grand Canyon back in 2001 during my last great vacation. Linda and Roman had visited that area maybe a year before my trip, so she gave me much advice on what type of film to use and which lenses would work best. I had never been on a horse before but was initiated on this trip. Linda had put Roman through the same ordeal, as Roman took his first ride on a horse with Linda on their trip. So my card to her read as follows: “Hi Linda. Well, we did the helicopter ride to Havisu yesterday. It was a bit cloudy so it never got scorching hot. Tell Roman I feel his pain. I think one of my balls is still in the canyon. The trip has been largely spectacular. I’ve been shooting all slide film. Of course you were right about the wide-angle lens. Love, Steve.” She had urged me to at least rent a wide-angle lens for the trip, but I was lazy, and I lived to regret that decision.
I received a phonecall yesterday from an amateur photographer who had purchased some of her World Trade Center photos and was very sad at the news of her passing. One of the most poignant things he said to me was that he was really touched by how even after she had made the sale, she continued to take an interest in him. She helped him tremendously when he purchased a digital camera. She taught him how to use the camera, as well as many things about photography. It was that experience that made him realize how special Linda was.
I also received an email from one of our relatives, Freya, about Linda’s passing. In it, she said: “The last time I saw her was at Maxine's wedding and we had several wonderful chats before my mom's 90th birthday celebration. She introduced me to her art and photography through her website. I was amazed at her sensitive and beautiful capture of a simple city skyline... especially the twin towers.”
I received an email from her friend Charles Ferguson, who said: “Linda was a credit to her family, and to the lives of those that were honored to know her. I will personally be indebted to her assistance with my camera, and more to the fact I could call her my friend. In such a time of emptiness all I can say is her memory will last forever as her talents are conveyed from the ingenious and artistic work from her camera which was only an extension of her mind.”
It's not worth dwelling on how Linda died. That is not what we should remember. We should remember the lives she touched. We should remember her art. We should remember her photography. We should remember how her ability to find beauty in the world could be shared through her artwork. We should remember how she never gave up as an artist, staying true to her craft until the end. We should remember how much she loved New York. And we should remember how much she loved her Mom… and her Dad… even though it’s clear she had some pretty unique ways of showing her love for them.
Goodbye Linda. You are forever with us in our hearts. Your artwork and photography will provide your family and friends, as well as the rest of the world, with many happy memories of your ability to show us beauty in this life. Even though you were taken away from us far too soon, I hope you are comforted in the knowledge that all of this beauty you found in the world will be spread around and shared with many more people.