I was very moved this morning reading this short essay from Roger Ebert’s book “Life Itself: A Memoir” this morning on salon.com. Not just because he’s someone who has a huge impact in the world of film, but for that rare moment of finding someone who spoke of life and death in a way that resonated with me. It’s refreshing, and honestly a bit rare, to hear someone who is not religious and doesn’t have children talk so fearlessly about death. These are the gifts of perspective that we can learn from people with chronic diseases (Ebert had cancer). When the majority of inspirational writing on death comes from people who tell you your children are your legacy and wax poetic about the religious bounties promised to them, it’s hard not to panic a little bit as a non-child bearing person who is not religious about what’s in store for me. Since taking care of my mom with terminal cancer and holding her as she took her last breaths two years ago, I’ve understandably been thinking on this often.
I love Ebert’s idea of us all being on incremental steps toward death and that some of us just get there by “celestial locomotive” rather than by foot. I also appreciate the poetic naturalism, the idea of coming to peace with the natural cycles and being a part of the dirt and trees. His perspective on mental memes as what you leave behind is also interesting to me, though as he points out even that will be forgotten one day–a reminder to let all that ego go.
I’m joining the chorus of millions of people today appreciating Ebert’s contributions to the world and sending condolences to his wife and the people he held dear. Rest in peace, whatever that means to you.