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James Lee Byars

JAMES LEE BYARS DIED in the Anglo-American Hospital in Cairo late on the night of May 22 or early in the morning of May 23, 1997. Cancer had planted flags of occupation in his body for several years, and finally claimed it all. Toward the end he said ruefully, “My bones stick to the chair.” Yet in the days and hours before his death, he was engrossed in the lingering issues, problems, and satisfactions of his life—working on a new will, speaking on the phone with friends on other continents and vigorously pursuing his artwork up till, literally, the final minutes.

Late on May 21 a turn for the worse caused him to go into the hospital, a pleasant place which he liked, in the midst of tall old trees on an island in the Nile. When I asked him, on his last night, whether he wanted me to take him elsewhere (Venice? Cologne?), he said, “How could I find anyplace better than this?”

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