Thank You, Roger Ebert: You Gave Me Comfort and Inspiration The Day You Died
An essay by Roger Ebert reached me at exactly the right moment.
-April Daniels Hussar
Yesterday my Facebook feed was full of the news that the world lost one of our greats, film critic, writer, and thinker Roger Ebert. F&*ing cancer made another claim. By evening, I noticed that a couple of my friends had shared the same link, to an essay by Ebert on Salon.com, so I clicked.
And it just absolutely blew me away.
The essay is titled, “I Do Not Fear Death.” In it, Ebert starts out by writing, “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.”
The bravery and honesty with which he writes the rest of the essay gutted me, and inspired me, and brought me so much comfort, because right now I am grieving the loss of my little sister. In this time of darkness and hurt, when death has become suddenly so real and terrible, so final, Roger Ebert’s words made me feel better. The whole essay is a must-read, but the part that touched me the most — made me burst into grateful tears — was when he quoted Vincent van Gogh:
Looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map.
Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France?
Just as we take a train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star. We cannot get to a star while we are alive any more than we can take the train when we are dead. So to me it seems possible that cholera, tuberculosis and cancer are the celestial means of locomotion. Just as steamboats, buses and railways are the terrestrial means.
To die quietly of old age would be to go there on foot.
“That is a lovely thing to read, and a relief to find I will probably take the celestial locomotive,” Ebert writes.
I think of my sister reaching the beauty and wonder of a star, and it fills me with longing and hope. I think of Ebert writing and sharing those words, and finding them lovely, and I am filled with awe, and inspiration, that a man who had looked death in the eye did not fear it. Instead, Ebert focused on what life meant to him, what his version of faith meant to him, and how that philosophy brought him peace as he looked at his life, and his eventual, inevitable death:
I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.
Thank you Roger Ebert. Your words not only reminded me about the important thing in life, but offered succor to my aching heart. I think of you reaching your star, while your words here in this world make you immortal, and I am inspired.
April Daniels Hussar is BettyConfidential’s Editorial Director