Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘movies’

Death Like the Old Movies

An excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss & Laughter.

I wish death happened like it used to in the old movies. You know, those deathbed scenes were everyone gathers around, makes amends, say their good-byes, and drift off with visions of God and the angels dancing in their eyes. But it rarely does. Deathbed conversions are few and far between.

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When death approaches, or has taken place, most people live their faith, their beliefs (or their disbelief) in a God, or the hereafter, the same as they have the rest of their lives. If they believe in some creative force that is more than what we can see, they continue to do so through sickness and loss. If they believe God has a plan for everything that happens, and that Jesus is their savior, they continue to do so until their dying breath. If someone feels that there is no God, supreme being or spiritual meaning for anything on earth, they hold on to that belief after their loved one’s body is buried deep in the ground.

A friend once told me, as their mother was dying, that no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t make herself believe the same as her mother had all her life. She desperately wished she could. She wanted to understand and connect with her mother before she passed on in a way she had never been able to. She said that for awhile she pretended to believe as her mother had, but she knew she was pretending. She even went to her mother’s church and read the same readings and scriptures, without any change of heart.

A client I met with for several months repeatedly expressed her frustration that her husband had never believed in God. She couldn’t understand how he had gone to his death without accepting God into his life. For over forty years she had tried to convert him and get him to go to church, always believing that someday he would see the spiritual light.

A member of my family had an understandably difficult time when my uncle killed himself, and sincerely worried about his soul, wondering if he was suffering as much after death as he had during life. They prayed that God would forgive my uncle and provide the serenity that had always seemed to be just beyond his reach. The only way they could make sense out of the tragedy was to believe that he was “in a better place”. They had always believed that God provides happiness and peace, and used that faith to provide personal comfort, safety and meaning.

Belief in God, a Great Spirit, Nature, Jesus, or some other religion or spiritual path, doesn’t mean that people don’t question, argue, bargain or get angry with that in which they believe.

A colleague of mine was enraged when her daughter was killed in a car accident. She felt like her religious tradition had lied to her. “How could a loving God let such a bad thing happen to such an innocent child?! How could He take her at such a young age?!” She still believed in God, but couldn’t make sense out of what had happened. “Somebody was responsible for this!” she said. “There has to be a reason!” She prayed to God for an answer. “But all I could hear was myself talking to the empty air,” she explained. “It took me years of asking ‘why’, begging for an answer, before God gave me the strength and understanding to live with not knowing.”

Another client blamed God for allowing her abusive ex-husband to survive and live with his alcoholism, while her hard-working, kind friend died from liver cancer. She overflowed with unanswerable questions. “Why didn’t that son-of-a-you-know-what get this awful disease instead? Why does my friend have to deal with this? What did she ever do? Why? Why? Why?” Her friend continued to work as long as possible, and remained true to her sweet loving self until her death a year and a half later.

As in most sweeping statements of finality there are exceptions. Occasionally someone reacts to death and loss differently than they have lived the rest of their lives.

A woman I interviewed a few years ago said she made a bargain with God and it changed her life. As the car she was driving hit a side rail on the freeway, and begin rolling over and over she said, “God, if you let me live to raise my young son I’ll dedicate my life to you.” She had never believed in God and didn’t know where that had come from, but she said she heard a voice answer her that said, “Yes”. She survived the accident, continued raising her son as a single parent, and never forgot her promise. Though she had always seen herself as a selfish person, she started thinking of others and became involved in a number of charities. When her son was killed ten years later she never wavered from her promise and used her son’s death to inspire her to do even more of “God’s work”.

Death and grief can crack open our hearts. They can change our perceptions of how we see the world. They can wake us up to the reality of pain and suffering in ways that we never thought possible. Within the midst of such grief and pain we can reach out for comfort, look within for guidance, and find compassion and forgiveness from our religion, community or sense of personal responsibility.

Mourning can be a catalyst for clarifying our values and deepening our understanding, but it doesn’t mean we will throw our beliefs out the window or change our spiritual faith. We need not despair over our usual conditioned human response to loss. There’s always an old movie with a good deathbed scene we can find at the video store, take home and imagine ourselves saying our good-byes, making last minute amends and being carried off to the heavens!

More support and stories at: Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter.

Feminism Behind Bars

TheGreyArea_DVDinhouse_V3.inddThe Grey Area: Feminism Behind Bars
A film by Noga Ashkenazi
US, 2012, 65 minutes, Color, DVD, English
From Women Make Movies

THE GREY AREA is an intimate look at women’s issues in the criminal justice system and the unique experience of studying feminism behind bars. Through a series of captivating class discussions, headed by students from Grinnell College, a small group of female inmates at a maximum women’s security prison in Mitchellville, Iowa, share their diverse experiences with motherhood, drug addiction, sexual abuse, murder, and life in prison. The women, along with their teachers, explore the “grey area” that is often invisible within the prison walls and delve into issues of race, class, sexuality and gender.

The number of women in prison has grown by over 800% in the past three decades, two thirds are mothers and are incarcerated for non-violent offenses and more than 80% have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault at some point in their lives. THE GRAY AREA is an important look into the complex factors behind these statistics and how feminism sheds light and brings hope to those incarcerated. This is an excellent film to prompt discussion in women’s studies, courses that include prison reform or violence against women, American studies and sociology.

Read about The Grey Area and other films at WOMEN MAKE MOVIES

Women Come Marching Home

Service_DVDinhouse_V2.inddService: When Women Come Marching Home
A film by Marcia Rock and Patricia Lee Stotter
US, 2012, 55 minutes, Color, DVD, English
From Women Make Movies

Women make up 15 percent of today’s military. That number is expected to double in 10 years. SERVICE highlights the resourcefulness of seven amazing women who represent the first wave of mothers, daughters and sisters returning home from the frontless wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. Portraying the courage of women veterans as they transition from active duty to their civilian lives, this powerful film describes the horrific traumas they have faced, the inadequate care they often receive on return, and the large and small accomplishments they work mightily to achieve.

These are the stories we hear about from men returning from war, but rarely from women veterans. Through compelling portraits, we watch these women wrestle with prostheses, homelessness, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Sexual Trauma. The documentary takes the audience on a journey from the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq to rural Tennessee and urban New York City, from coping with amputations, to flashbacks, triggers and depression to ways to support other vets. An eye-opening look at the specific challenges facing women veterans with a special focus on the disabled, SERVICE can be used for courses in military studies, women’s studies, peace and conflict courses and veteran support groups.

See more about women making movies at: Women Make Movies

And The Winner Is?

No matter how commercial, glittery or fake the Oscar’s are, I still love ’em. Guessing who will win or who I want to win, is half the fun, even if I haven’t seen half the movies, actors or screenwriters that are up for awards.

It is ironic, since film, like books, are so different, one from the other, that the idea of comparing one to another is actually quite ridiculous. It’s always nice to have support and praise from your peers, but in many ways it is like comparing apples and oranges to guava, bananas and nectarines. Unlike books, film making is a totally collaborate and team effort.

To say a movie is “A film by….” is quite erroneous, since it usually takes hundreds, if not thousands of people to complete a story for the screen. Writers, producers, directors, editors, actors, drivers, camera operators, cinematographers, lights, sound and more and more and more.

There is also the fact that there are so many more important matters, events and concerns taking place around the world and awards shows pale in comparison to their importance. I’m not ignoring this reality by watching the Academy Awards, just taking a few minutes off. Movies also have the power to inspire, enlighten and transform the way people think and see the world, so I hope some of that is conveyed during the show.

So, in spite of these realities, I still like to watch every minute of the Academy Awards and have for years. Perhaps it is the small independent film or an unknown screenwriter, actor or director that has been working for years who has the chance to finally be recognized and appreciated. Maybe, it’s the appreciation I have for the amazing creativity and cooperation that is required to make a good film. Then there’s my fantasy to one day see my name mentioned, as “a film, based on the book by Gabriel Constans“. Whatever the reason, I know exactly where I (and most of our family and friends) will be at 6:00 pm this coming Sunday.

A Picture of Success

An excerpt from the book Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call. Interview with Sybil Anderson-Adams.

Her life was the picture of success. Her husband was an attorney, they were drawing up plans for their dream house and she recently quit her teaching job to spend more time with their three young, healthy, happy children. Suddenly, the rug was pulled out from under her feet and before she knew what hit her, her life was turned upside down. What started out as a headache in court, turned out to be a leaking aneurysm. In spite of the doctors’ assurances to the contrary, within three weeks Sybil Anderson-Adams husband, father of her children, was dead. Without comprehension or time to have said good-bye, she struggled to survive and make sense of the incomprehensible.

As a result of her desperation and need to find answers, she reached out to her friends, neighbors, doctor and church and formed a support group for young adults who’s partners had died. The first meeting brought together twenty-five people who’d previously thought they were alone. With her need and ability to communicate her process and grief to others, she continues to open the door of life for those who thought it had been slammed in their face and locked shut forever.

SYBIL ANDERSON-ADAMS: When I arrived at the hospital the doctor said, “I have some bad news to give you. Your husband stopped breathing.’ I’ll never forget those words. ‘He stopped breathing.’ He finally said, ‘I’m sorry . . . he’s passed away.’ It was then that it hit me . . . like a wosh. (she hits her chest with the palms of both hands). I doubled over . . . just like you see in the movies.

After the shock had subsided I realized I didn’t know who I was anymore. It was the loss of identity. I was the type of person who always had my entire life planned out. Before Neal died, I’d never really had a traumatic event. I had things all figured and scheduled . . . which, as you know, gives you a sense of control. But I had no control over this one and that was my undoing. I had to decide where I was going; who I was. There was an urgency. I remember going to a counselor and saying, ‘When will I not feel this way? When, when, when?!’ The reality was so strong that I wanted it to be over. I didn’t want to cry anymore.

Then one day I remember making a decision. it was something one of my kids said. You know, ‘Out of the mouths of babes!’ One of my sons says, ‘If you hadn’t stopped and talked to Dad that one day long ago, you might never had known him or gotten married.’ I said, ‘You know, you’re right.’ And I had this vision where I decided that whatever came up I’d say, ‘Yes!’ That I would do things no matter how hard it was. When my kids had stuff they needed to do . . . cub scouts, swimming . . . I made a decision that no matter what, I wasn’t going to hide at home anymore, I was going to go. And what I found was that doing that made me stronger, even though a lot of the events I attended were absolute disasters! Taking some kind of action made me feel brave. it gave me confidence.

I remember sitting with another friend who was at that same juncture. She said, ‘I hate this. I want to be out of here.’ I felt the same at the time and replied, ‘Yeah, just get me out.’ And that’s one of the reasons I started a support group and keep it going to this day. I needed those people so bad. They were my reality. If somebody else could make it, so could I.

For awhile I could only live for the day. The future was nonexistent. I’ve met many people throughout the years that say the same thing. hey said, ‘Good-bye” in the morning and their spouse was dead by the afternoon. It changed my whole concept of how I look at things. I laugh more often now. We’ve got three teenagers and one in early adolescence. They can make you laugh or cry. If I wasn’t able to laugh once in a while our life would be one miserable hell.

I think all survivors make that decision at some point. You have to decide to live. My kids forced me into it. I’d be in bed with the covers pulled over my head, not wanting to get out and one of them would come in and say, ‘What’s for breakfast?’ What are you going to do; I couldn’t stay in bed? I had to get up. I was the only one they had left.

We had a saying in our house, ‘Life sucks.’ It was kind of our motto for awhile. The kids would say, ‘Life sucks!’ and I’d look at them and say, ‘Yeah, then what?’ They’d answer, ‘Then you die.” I’d continue, “So, then what are you going to do about it?’ They’d look at me, roll their eyes and say, ‘Come on Mom.’ It’s made them real. They see a different reality then most kids.

Life has become a really interesting place. Neal’s death and where my life has gone since, has added another dimension. God knows I wish it hadn’t happened, but without it I could have lived until I was eighty-five and never discovered this! Life is such a gift, though I’m not thrilled with the way I had to really find this out. I love being in this state of mind. I’m doing things that I never knew I could or would do. There was a point two years after he died when I realized, ‘My God, I can do anything!’ I survived something that at first glance seemed like an endless hole of despair. I didn’t think I’d ever climb out . . . but I did.

Deathbed Conversions?

I wish death happened like it used to in the old movies. You know, those deathbed scenes were everyone gathers around, makes amends, say their good-byes and drift off with visions of God and the angels dancing in their eyes. But it rarely does. Deathbed conversions are few and far between.

When death approaches or has taken place, most people live their faith, their beliefs (or their disbelief) in a God or the hereafter the same as they have the rest of their lives. If they believe in some creative force that is more than what we can see, they continue to do so through sickness and loss. If they believe God has a plan for everything that happens and that Jesus is their savior, they continue to do so until their dying breath. If someone feels that there is no God, supreme being or spiritual meaning for anything on earth, they hold on to that belief even after their loved one’s body is buried deep in the ground.

A friend once told me, as their mother was dying, that no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t make herself believe the same as her mother had all her life. She desperately wished she could. She wanted to understand and connect with her mother before she passed on in a way she had never been able to. She said that for awhile she pretended to believe as her mother had, but she knew she was pretending. She even went to her mother’s church and read the same readings and scriptures, without any change of heart.

A client I met with for several months repeatedly expressed her frustration that her husband had never believed in God and she couldn’t understand how he had gone to his death without accepting God into his life. For over forty years she had tried to convert him and get him to go to church, always believing that someday he would see the spiritual light.

A member of my family had an understandably difficult time when my uncle killed himself and sincerely worried about his soul, wondering if he was suffering as much after death as he had during life. They prayed that God would forgive my uncle and provide the serenity that had always seemed to be just beyond his reach. The only way they could make sense out of the tragedy was to believe that he was “in a better place”. They had always believed that God provides happiness and peace and used that faith to provide personal comfort, safety and meaning.

Belief in God, a Great Spirit, Nature, Jesus or some other religion or spiritual path, doesn’t mean that people don’t question, argue, bargain or get angry with that in which they believe.

A colleague of mine was enraged when her daughter was killed in a car accident. She felt like her religious tradition had lied to her. “How could a loving God let such a bad thing happen to such an innocent child?! How could He take her at such a young age?!” She still believed in God, but couldn’t make sense out of what had happened. “Somebody was responsible for this!” she said. “There has to be a reason!” She prayed to God for an answer. “But all I could hear was myself talking to the empty air,” she explained. “It took me years of asking ‘why’, begging for an answer, before God gave me the strength and understanding to live with not knowing.”

Another client blamed God for allowing her abusive ex-husband to survive and live with his alcoholism, while her hard-working, kind friend died from liver cancer. She overflowed with unanswerable questions. “Why didn’t that son-of-a-you-know-what get this awful disease instead? Why does my friend have to deal with this? What did she ever do? Why? Why? Why?” Her friend continued to work as long as possible and remained true to her sweet loving self until her death a year and a half later.

As in most sweeping statements of finality there are exceptions. Occasionally someone reacts to death and loss differently than they have lived the rest of their lives.

A woman I interviewed a few years ago said she made a bargain with God and it changed her life. As the car she was driving hit a side rail on the freeway and begin rolling over and over she said, “God, if you let me live to raise my young son I’ll dedicate my life to you.” She had never believed in God and didn’t know where that had come from, but she said she heard a voice answer her that said, “Yes”. She survived the accident, continued raising her son as a single parent and never forgot her promise. Though she had always seen herself as a selfish person, she started thinking of others and became involved in a number of charities. When her son was killed ten years later she never wavered from her promise and used her son’s death to inspire her to do even more of “God’s work”.

Death and grief can crack open our hearts. They can change our perceptions of how we see the world. They can wake us up to the reality of pain and suffering in ways that we never thought possible. Within the midst of such grief and pain we can reach out for comfort, look within for guidance and find compassion and forgiveness from our religion, community or sense of personal responsibility.

Mourning can be a catalyst for clarifying our values and deepening our understanding, but it doesn’t mean we will throw our beliefs out the window or change our spiritual faith. We need not despair over our usual conditioned human response to loss. There’s always an old movie with a good deathbed scene we can find at the video store, take home and imagine ourselves saying our good-byes, making last minute amends and being carried off to the heavens!

My Mother’s Son

After spending a week together, I discovered that my Mama-San, as I used to call her when I was a teen, is getting older! I know that shouldn’t be a surprise, but alas, it made me acutely aware that I too am a little hard of hearing, don’t walk as far as I used to and can’t read small print, even with my glasses on.

Being alone with my mother, for the first time in about a decade, without other siblings or grandchildren around, also reminded me of other ways we’re alike. We both “plan” and worry about the future, whether it’s days or hours away. We both love reading, movies and music; often the same books, films and artists. We are both interested in other people and like to hear about their lives, thoughts and feelings. We both have big noses, big feet and love cats.

She has a habit of starting to talk about something that she has been thinking of in her head, but when she speaks you have no idea why she’s suddenly talking about a friend’s son in Washington who builds houses. It usually takes a minute or two and some investigative skills, to discover how she got to where she is and why you didn’t understand the connection.

Alas, some people, including my wife, tell me I do the same thing! For instance, she’ll be talking about the garden, which “naturally” makes me think of carrots, which in turn leads me to thoughts of Bugs Bunny, which lapses into “What’s up Doc.” At that point I began to think of doctors, health care and insurance, which inevitably causes me to blurt out, “Did we pay that last bill from the doctor visit?”

After a week with my mother I understand more clearly then ever why people often have such a perplexed look on their faces when I make such statements and why, upon explanation of my “logical” train of thought, they laugh or ignore me altogether.

Neither my Mom nor I can read our own handwriting, which can cause countless confusion and misunderstanding. We would make excellent physicians, as nobody could read our prescriptions.

On the other hand, we do have our differences, thank goodness. My mother has always loved to wear bright colored clothing with animal shaped earrings. In contrast, I tend to wear the same tired old blue, green and black that I’ve worn since childhood and I never wear earrings. She was raised as a Methodist and I have practiced Buddhism, converted to Catholicism for a few years and attended Quaker Meeting for a few more. And she posed nude for an art class, in her younger years, which I wouldn’t be caught dead doing at any age!

Remember that book that said, “Everything You Needed to Know You Learned in Kindergarten”? Well, everything important that I’ve learned has come from my Mom. She has always been an example of strength and independence, even when women were not “supposed” to be that way. She taught me to be honest, caring, involved and to respect others. And most importantly, she showed me that personal happiness and love could live simultaneously with responsibility. Maybe it’s not so bad to be like my mother after all!

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