The discovery of an untouched apartment above a long-abandoned pharmacy in New York led me to think about my mortality and how finite my life is. At age 32, I have been incredibly lucky to have only had minor health ailments considering the risks I have put myself into exploring abandoned buildings for over 16 years.

Last weekend was a whirlwind, from working through an old resort to a discovery of a long-closed pharmacy in the Catskill Mountains. The once-beloved pharmacy, soda fountain, and gift shop, closed since at least 1979, is one of those once-in-a-lifetime discoveries. Long expired medicines, ready for compounding or dispensing, stand listless on shelves. Some were never used, stuffed with cotton.

Owned by Harry Litwin, the pharmacy was last registered by the New York State Board of Pharmacy for the years 1978 and 1979. Litwin, born on March 25, 1904, died in April 1980 at age 76.

Upstairs is one of the most heartbreaking discoveries I have made in years. While rummaging through the clutter, I came across a honeymoon book. It was heartbreaking to know that this couple’s pictures, their tender moments, their life, is summarized in their apartment: an abandonment. No one to care for their former treasures. No one to pick up the belongings.

How do I want to be remembered? That crosses my mind a lot. I don’t have scrapbooks. No honeymoon pictures. Just digital files, some souvenirs and a lot of memories. When I pass, it will be as if I never existed except for in a digital life.

I know that I am pretty small in the big scheme of things, and I suppose the most one can hope for is to make some kind of difference. But what difference have I made? What in the world is better because of me? 1

I will die at some point, and once I am dead and everyone who knew me dies too, it will be as if I never existed. What difference has my life made to anyone? 1

Looking through these photos and the box of once treasured mementos, I wondered who these people were. What did they do for a living? What were their leisurely activities? What difference did they make to society?

I then wanted answers. Who owned this apartment? Are there decedents that perhaps don’t know of this situation?

I don’t have those answers. It’s heartbreaking.

  1. Paraphrased from Warren Schmidt in the movie About Schmidt, one of my favorite cines.