In July of 2009, I found myself in the 29th floor apartment of Midge Wilker overlooking Central Park. Trying to assess the light, I asked Midge if she knew when the sun would set. She held out her hand towards the horizon using an old trick to estimate how many minutes of light were left. Each finger represents roughly fifteen minutes, each hand an hour, and you stack your hands until you reach the sun. We do this all the time in North Carolina, but watching Midge, who has stage 4 colon cancer, measure all the light left in the world seemed especially poignant.
This weekend, I learned that Midge’s light had run out. A friend of hers emailed me to say that she passed away last week and asked if I could send some of the photos I took. I only spent a single afternoon with Midge for a story about finding meaning in life while facing death. But I think about that afternoon frequently. It changed the way I photograph and it changed the way I feel. She was so honest about her fears and her hopes. She was so kind to let me into her life knowing that there was only so much of it left.