of Dr. Steven L. Berg

“The Last Farm” and the Realities of Death

Watching The Last Farm today, I realized that I have no idea how individuals in their late teens and early twenties view life and death issues.

When I was in my 20s, I began reading the obituaries for the same reason that my grandmother did–to see which of her friends had dies.  It was the beginning of AIDS and people I knew through my local, state, and national work were dying and I would read about their deaths in various newspapers and magazines.

At that time, we knew little about AIDS including how it was transmitted.  AIDS was also a death sentence.  If one was diagnosed, he would be dead within in three years.  Young gay men could not be sure that we had a future.  Unlike our peers, we did not have the guarantee that we would live to a ripe old age.  In fact, we could not know whether we had been infected and would live more than three years. Like Tim McGraw, we had to “Live Like You Were Dying.”

Even after we learned to test for HIV and I learned that I tested negative, the reality of death was around.  My material grandfather died at 51.  His two sons who survived infancy died in their 40s and my younger brother died at 34.  Life held no promise of old age.

Now that I have outlived my grandfather and uncles, I am faced with the reality that my death is now closer than my birth.  Yesterday, when I ordered new shingles for my roof, I saw no need to purchase the highest quality; the ones that were guaranteed to last 45 years.  The second best–the ones that last 30 years–will likely outlive me.

My students found The Last Farm to be a sad film.  I did not.  Instead, I see it as a touching love story .  The horror is not death but living life put out of the way by a daughter who is too busy living her own life to really pay attention to her parents.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Bob Gurwin who posted a link to “Never-Before-Seen Photos from 100 Years Ago Tell Vivid Story of Gritty New York City” (Mail Online, 24 April 2012) on Facebook.  Because of heavy usage, I was unable to check out the database.  However, the images included with the article were amazing.


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One thought on ““The Last Farm” and the Realities of Death

  1. Sadly I can’t shed much light on how young people view mortality. I spent my late teens and early twenties fearing that I might have HIV but being too afraid to get tested. That lead to me avoid the doctors when I started developing the symptoms of kidney failure. My near death experience in my mid twenties, coupled with the diagnosis of potentially fatal condition destroyed the last vestiges of the false immortality one feels when they are young.

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