Monday, October 22, 2012

Death and the Movies

Hattiesburg American first published 2007


Death And The Movies


By Nita Wilson

 When we lose a loved one we turn into our own world and mourn with family and friends.  We aren't interested in the world going on around us, just our own feelings trying to deal with the empty space the death has created in our lives.  It never touched me personally when a movie star died, or if they lost a loved one.  Those people were a breed of their own and somehow must handle it differently than we do.  But as I grow older I am more and more affected by people I know in that world.  On December 8th a sweet friend of mine, Beverly Garland, died in her home surrounded by her family and some close friends. (You may remember her from her many films, and as the wife of Fred McMurray on “My Three Sons”.) I couldn't be with her because lack of funds kept me from flying to Los Angeles and I wasn't as close to her as the people who were lovingly near her when she passed.  But, for the second time I realized how alike we all are when there is sorrow. In 1960 she married Fillmore Crank and became mom to his two young children who’d lost their mother in an automobile accident.  She and Fillmore then had two more children.  

          I was kept informed of the care giving she received at the hands of her loving children for the last couple of years and the devastation, yet relief when her suffering came to an end. I knew what they were feeling because my sister and brothers went through the same thing when our mom was ill and needed our support and care.  Several years before, I was with Beverly throughout her husband's funeral and I watched her walk into widowhood with stoic calm despite her fear of  living the rest of her life alone.  She and my friend Tatiana visited me in New Orleans before Katrina and she was the most beautiful 75yr old woman I’ve ever seen.  Her energy and love of life was inspiring and she gave my middle aged overweight self hope for a long happy life.  We were all surprised and shocked when she became ill after a trip to Africa and the downhill demise of her brilliance was sobering to all of us.  I will never again think that movie stars are above such things when they lose a loved one.

I was also very fortunate to work with Patsy Swazie in Texas about 10 years ago.  She was the choreographer on a remake of “Picnic” for Sony/Tristar.  All of us in the office being the star struck nuts we are sometimes, were thrilled to get to ask questions about her son Patrick.  Her pride in talking about him was no less and no more than my own mother and dad when they’d brag about one of their kids.  She bragged about all of her kids and we were all strangely surprised to see her as just a mom and not Patrick Swazie’s mom.  She told us about Patrick needing a body guard at times since the characters he played were many times the hard fighting guy which in real life prompted people to “take him on”.   His brother wanted the job but Patrick wouldn't give it to him.  Patrick told his mom he’d never be able to walk away if his brother was defending him, he’d have to stay and help his brother and the body guard issue would be mute.  I was once again aware of how like the rest of us movie stars really are.  My older brother would’ve said the same thing had he been in that position.  My heart goes out to Patrick and his family in his fight against this horrible cancer and I pray for strength for Patsy, a dear mom who loves her boys.

I have a 36yr old autistic son named Jason who now lives with his dad in Connecticut.  When he was 15 he started having seizures and his dad and I went through hell and back getting his medication stable and it was several years before the seizures were under control.  When I saw Jett Travolta on TV and realized how like my son he was, my heart broke  and 

I started thanking God that Jason had been fortunate enough not to fall or be in harm’s way during one of his seizures.  I pray for John and Kelly everyday that they can get through this.  Losing a child is horrible, but unlike most people who believe that when you lose a handicapped child it is a strange blessing, they are wrong it is worse.  When you have a child that depends on you for their very life at all times, your heart is filled with that child and his/her well being.  Death is not a blessing, it is a catastrophe.

          Movies make death sad with a happy ending.  The death is sad, then they all go to a funeral and sing “Amazing Grace” (the only hymn Hollywood knows).  The last scene is everyone going on with their lives and welcoming  a new day a little wiser and a little sadder.  They never show the days and weeks of wondering what we could have or shouldn't have done.  Reliving every argument, counting every lost blessing and not believing we can ever get happy again.  But then if they did, we wouldn't go to the movies.

          I wish we could all get to that place where we believe Death is just going home.  I know we all know that.  I know we all believe that.  But when it actually hits, we can only see our own loss.  Maybe the Irish have the right idea: party in celebration of the deceased since they are the ones going to a better place whether they are famous, infamous, or just one of us.








































































































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