“Will I have any regrets in life?”

“What could I have done differently?”

“How should I live my life?”

Artist Claudia Bicen created a portrait series called “Thoughts in Passing” which told the stories of nine individuals in hospice care. ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Artist Claudia Bicen created a portrait series called “Thoughts in Passing” which told the stories of nine individuals in hospice care. ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH SILBIGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

It is questions like these that fill, and often plague, the minds of many. Questions like these also have the power to inspire, as proven by hyperrealist Claudia Bicen in her portrait series, “Thoughts in Passing.”

“Thoughts in Passing” consists of nine life-size portraits of individuals whom Bicen drew using graphite pencil. All those depicted are, or were, in hospice care, and only four of them are still alive. According to The Huffington Post, Bicen met with and drew these individuals over the course of two years, during which she worked to capture their life stories. Each portrait is extremely detailed and realistic, and each individual’s shirt has his or her own story inscribed on it, which symbolizes the way people take their stories with them wherever they go. It also entices audience members to take a closer look at the artwork. Bicen also recorded her subjects’ words, which can be heard in her Vimeo posts.

The popular themes among those whom Bicen talked to were regret and involvement in the world. The portrait subjects cared more about their connections with life in the living world than the material things they possessed. From the portraits, it seems as though happiness is the ultimate factor in living a fulfilled life.

I find that the juxtaposition in these drawings between the celebration of life and an inevitable death creates contrasting feelings. The portraits are warming, yet chilling. Daunting, yet inspiring. I am not one who deals with the subject of death well. In fact, I struggle to even type the word in this article.

Death is such a difficult concept to grasp. It is unknown and provokes a multitude of philosophical questions, including those of morality, personal values and self-reflection, just to name a few. Time is also a funny thing. It is a concept in that people fill their lives with it, but ominous in that it reflects how much longer a person has left to live. I imagine that the peak of these emotions is when time is so close to running out.

So for me, “Thoughts in Passing” is unbelievably striking. In reflecting on something so unimaginable, who better to highlight the coping with death than one who is knowingly approaching it? The nine individuals’ ability to talk about life under their circumstances is comforting, in a sense. It suggests the acceptance of death, and rather than viewing it as something that should be feared, it is something that can serve to commemorate life and the adventures it brings.

On the other side of the spectrum, who better to talk about life lessons than one whose life is almost over? As expected, it is often when time is running out that people can reflect on their lives, establishing what they wish they had done differently and happy moments in their lives. Such messages are powerful and suggest the importance of embracing life, rather than simply existing in it.

“Thoughts in Passing” is a portrait series that serves to not only preserve the lives of nine individuals, but also to establish important life lessons. It reminds its viewers to stop and smell the roses every so often, so that death can be a time in which a person can reflect on enjoying all the roses of his or her life.