Rober Ebert died today at the age of 70 due to complications from cancer.
I feel a great sense of loss and sadness and I must admit that his death is affecting me in more ways than I thought possible. It seems surreal because it feels like this is a friend who I have lost as opposed to just a famous person whose tragic death I am witnessing from a distance.
His reviews have always been more than just reviews to me, they were exposés into the human heart and psyche. I almost always came out of them feeling that I had learned something; that I had gained a deeper understanding for the human condition and life with all its intricacies, moods and whims. His words always lingered on my mind long after I had finished reading them and they challenged me to see things from a perspective I had not considered before.
Roger Ebert was a brilliant man gifted in the art of communicating with his readers on a level that felt personal, engaging and wise. He was not speaking at us, he was speaking to us, from the heart. He communicated intelligence, wisdom, compassion, kindness and humor on a level that remains rare, if not unsurpassed. He wasn’t just critiquing movies, he was immersed in his passion and drew his lifeline from the art of movie making. As he once said “I am, beneath everything else, a fan.”
If you have ever read his blog and/or his reviews: they are a revelation.
It takes a strong person, and a fortunate one, to retain one’s self, one’s mind and humor when being treated for, and in the aftermath of, this insidious disease. But Roger Ebert did it with grace and style. He was brave and quietly kind.
I knew this was coming, especially when he earlier this week announced his “Leave of Presence” after his cancer had returned – and I always dreaded the day the same way one dreads the loss of a parent.
And here it is. He is gone. One less amazing person walking this Earth among us.
As I write this, I am reminded of what he once said about death and I feel a sense of calm washing over me as I do: “I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can’t say it wasn’t interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.”
Yes, that! I take comfort in the fact that he was in that frame of mind when he passed. And boy, what a wise way to look at this certainty that is awaiting all of us one day. I have always been in awe of Ebert’s wisdom and it is that wisdom I shall miss the most.
So, before We Assume Our Respective Roles in This Enduring Drama, Just Let Me Say That When these Frail Shadows We Inhabit Now Have Quit the Stage We’ll Meet and Raise a Glass Again Together in Valhalla.