Fragments of a season in hell

On November 22nd, my mother Anne passed away after a long agony.

These past 2 years, as her already precarious health became critical, every French numbers that popped on my phone sent a shiver down my spine. 

That call eventually came on November 15th, the broken voice of my father: “Viens. Vite.”

I don’t remember much after that, everything is obscured and blurred, only occasionally lightened by the kindness of strangers; the photo-editor i was canceling on; the older Israeli man next to me on the plane who held my hand and recited the kaddish; most of all, the discreet heroes at hospital Bichat ICU department and particularly two wonderful women, night nurses Aurore and Paola who I will never forget.

I spent 6 days and 5 nights there. 

Those are a few images from my diary, some fragments of a season in hell.

Overnight stays aren’t usually allowed but Aurore and Paola installed me a chair with a couple blankets and pillows, they even got me a toothbrush. 

For some reason, it is forbidden to photograph hospital staff in France, so i photographed that chair which embodied to me their profound humanity.

Hopital Bichat is huge, a city in the city, I would just get lost in the empty corridors at night trying to find a coffee machine that worked, smoking some cigarettes and crying on the parking lot.

I was trying to stay awake in front of the second game of France at the World Cup. 

A long beep. A flat line on a screen.

I knew but I was in denial. I ran out the room, found a doctor, told him the machine was broken.

It was over. 

My father, the morning after.

Katie flew in from New York, I showed her around Paris. 

The funeral happened, It was nice, my mother was very loved. I didn’t take photos.

A few days later, on a gloomy morning, I went to the Pere Lachaise crematorium to pick up her ashes. 

It was a weird moment. 

I took the subway back, with that sport bag containing my mum remains on my shoulder and tears rolling down my cheeks.

We are from a place in the South of France called Longarisse, a strip of land stuck between the Atlantic Ocean and a big lake. 

It was my mother’s happy place.

It was a cold and crisp morning, we walked with my dad to her favorite place, the pointe du Bernos, to spread her ashes; and it was sad, and it was beautiful.

Using Format