Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Nancy Kilpatrick Writer: Two weeks ago, my friend died. She didn't die of C...

Nancy Kilpatrick Writer: Two weeks ago, my friend died. She didn't die of C...: Two weeks ago, my friend died. She didn't die of COVID-19, she died from metastasized cancer, a melanoma that ultimately reached her b...

Two weeks ago, my friend died. She didn't die of COVID-19, she died from metastasized cancer, a melanoma that ultimately reached her brain causing lesions that required radiation.  I didn't post about this on social media because I thought, well, there are only 2 people who are social-media friends who knew her and they know of her death.
At the news, I cried, of course. It's never easy to lose someone in your life. I talked about her with a couple of people, briefly, with one friend I said more. She was not one of my oldest friends, those I've known for many decades, all of whom live elsewhere, but someone I met 5 or 6 years ago at a dining group I joined, which she also attended. Although we were as different as night (me) and day (her), she being fashionable, stylish, visual, extraverted, lively, and me being, well, the opposite, she befriended me from the get-go.

I thought I'd coped fairly well with her death.  I've known a lot of death from an early age. It's never easy and somehow always shocking as if the invisible seam holding reality together has split open revealing a different reality, one we know exists and yet hope doesn't. I have a kind of radar that picks up on hints,  kind of like second sight, meaning, it's happened a lot that I've known in advance when someone was about to die, even people who were not ill or in dire circumstances, or people I'd not seen or heard from in ages. Blessing or curse?

My friend had cancer, her third bout with that disease. She had been treated in the most modern ways with drugs specific to her system. In the time I knew her, she went from closing out one cancer to the remission stage and contracting another.

Yesterday was a horrible day for me. Everything piled up until I became overwhelmed. I managed to be sane enough to realize that there were 4 things tormenting me, plus two friends who I became worried about.  I've been living in self-quarantine since March and since I live alone, it's been hard. I try to talk or email regularly with some friends, others it's more sporadic. But it's the 3-D experience I'm missing, leaving me to feel as if I'm locked in solitary confinement. I posted my emotional collapse on Facebook. Normally, I just ride things out, but the pile-up got to me and with no one to talk to about it, I made a vague comment. 3 of the 4 things I cannot speak about because that would make the situations worse. 

Overnight, sleep and more rational thinking brought me to realize that 2 of those 4 I can dispense with and just let them flow away from my life. Sure, I take the hit, but at the same time, I will survive.  And in the grand scheme of things, likely they just won't matter that much down the road. The 3rd issue is big and has been ongoing for months now, repeated shocks to my system, yesterday's a double whammy when I naively thought the problem on the verge of resolution. I have to find a way to get through that, to deal with it, and my one advisor is down with an acute problem so I'm on my own for a bit, struggling to not rush in like a fool, my usual reaction to extreme stress, but what I'm trying to temper in my dotage, even though I suspect I will end up with an ulcer or worse from this psyche-soma situation. 

But, #4. That is the death of my friend. I really don't know why I didn't mention this on Facebook. It might be because every day I read the newsfeed and see the huge # of posts of grief and sadness of people losing someone close to them, or some other catastrophe. I didn't want to add to that mound of human misery in a time of so much fear and sadness. And, those who knew my friend already know of her death.

But today I awoke thinking about her and crying in a different way, and here's why.  Her amazing life, all the wonderful, giving, loving things she did, everything about her that's external, what's in her obituary,  that's not what I'm feeling. I'm feeling the loss of someone who was kind to me. Who loved me.

I have many friends of all different stripes. Some closer, some not so close. But I have rarely had a friend who is absolutely non-judgemental. Most people I've met in my life are judgemental, including me. We have strong opinions, make judgments, like to apply our moral code to others. Some people do this more often and more aggressively than others, of course, while others are more subtle about it, but there are none I consider judgment-free, which I guess is a judgment.

My friend who died was unique. She loved everyone. And she loved gossip because she loved everyone and wanted to know people, and what we hide is often the thing that makes us human in the eyes of others. But it also leads to judgments and perhaps condemnation, which is why we hide.  For my friend, she did not go that route. She was one of the most positive, life-affirming people I've met.  She never judged through the gossip but understood, not in a way that made her self-effacing as with some people, or 'pious' as with others, but she truly did not judge. It was as if she loved to build mosaics and the more she knew of someone directly or indirectly, the more pieces she could add to the mosaic that was a composite of that person. She saw the mosaic of the person as wonderful, lovely, full and rich.

My friend liked me, loved me, and even admired me, which I find leaves me feeling delicate. I am incredibly flawed, but she saw beyond my flaws as good friends do, and loved and nurtured the wounded child in me.  She was bias-free and therefore easy to trust.

My friend had family, and many friends and a wide and varied circle she traveled in. Still, we got together frequently apart from the food group for lunches, to visit museums, art shows, she came to one of my book launches. She introduced me to her University Women's Art Society, which offers monthly talks by people in the arts and sciences, some well-known and/or famous in their field; I attended some, finding them refreshing and the varied presentations fascinating. Then she introduced the Society to me by approaching the committee and telling them they really needed to have me as a speaker.  What did I talk about?  Vampires. And, despite my reservations, the talk was packed and I was invited to return sometime in the future.

My friend was generous with her time and her caring. She was Jewish and frequented pretty much daily a Middle-Eastern cafe near her home for her favorite coffee 'with warm milk, please', and a treat.  She told me how much she liked the man who ran the cafe and wanted to support this small business venture. Often when we met for lunch or anything else we did she would bring me a treat from that cafe, or something she had baked. She laughed a lot, about everything, including herself. There are so many experiences going through my mind and I could go on and on, but I won't.  Just to say that while she was younger than me, she felt like a mother to me, unconditional love plus lots of encouragement.

There were signs that things weren't going well, even as long as a year ago.  She loved to walk and would walk for 1 or 2 hrs. from her home to meet me at a resto. She was always never more than 5 or 10 minutes late. But last year, I waited an hour for her at a resto she had wanted to visit. I left her cellphone messages she did not respond to.  When she finally arrived, she looked frazzled. It was a hot day so at first, I didn't think much about it until she told me she had walked the wrong way and when she realized it, had to walk back the same distance. This was very unlike her.  A warning flag went up for me, one that I carefully tucked to the back of mind.  There were no other incidents until January 27th, the last time we got together, though I saw her at the other end of the table at the exceptionally-large food group in early March, just days before our COVID lockdown.

January 27th we went to a new food court in the Eaton Centre called Time Out. It's an upscale food emporium with dozens of high-end restaurants having small spaces to make a limited gourmet menu. It was huge, chaotic and while 90% of the seating was at high tables on stools and high chairs, we found the one long table at regular height and wedged ourselves in.  Her hearing had been going for decades and she wore hearing aids, but she couldn't hear me there. After, we searched for a nice cafe for coffee, but alas, there were none and we finally ended up in the metro near the entrance at a Second Cup. I always asked about her treatments and whenever she had visited the doctor for tests, the results, which came back pretty good.  This time she said the results weren't great and she'd be seeing the doctor again, possibly for new treatments. She was on chemo and had many side effects to deal with but was still extremely positive. 

We emailed regularly from February onward, checking up on each other. But when I asked about her condition, her news was not improving.  Then, I received a strange email from her, with a picture of one of her grandchildren. I wasn't sure what the odd message meant and wrote to ask. She wrote back confessing that she was having problems and couldn't think properly and was sending things to the wrong people and knew she wasn't making sense.  I wrote back, she wrote back, and because she was upset I asked if I could call her. I knew she didn't like to do the phone because of her hearing issues and when she wrote back she said she wouldn't be able to hear me.  Shortly after, a long email came to her closest friends, and I guess I was one of them. She wrote it with the help of her husband. It explained her condition and what the doctor had told her—she had 3 months to live. She was hoping for a miracle.  So was I and, I imagine, all her friends and family. That emailed promised she with her husband's help would send an email weekly updating everyone on her condition. The following week, no email arrived, and I understood what that meant. I was not surprised to learn of her death. 

There is a finality with death and yet our thoughts and feelings about the person gone do not end. We carry them with us and are forced to survive on the memories and struggle to make those concrete to make up for the empty space in the 'real' world. But the memories never quite match what was the reality that will be no more.

I didn't realize I was so broken by her death. I thought my initial crying for one night and part of one day was it. I went on after that with thoughts occasionally but no more tears. This, like so many deaths, was now in the past. And yet yesterday's pileup, exacerbated by COVID's emotional rollercoaster, brought me to awareness again of what I've lost. I know she went quickly, surrounded by the love of her family. I've been in touch with her daughter, and not yet with her husband who doesn't want to answer a lot of phone calls right now.

Losing her is like losing a mother. Support. Unconditional love. Fun times. Sweetness. Caring. Admiration. Someone who loved me, warts and all and, strangely, conveyed that she was proud of me. I'm still humbled by and in awe of her.

If there is a hereafter, she is winging her way there, optimistically, hopefully, adventurously, ready to accept whatever it is for what it is. I am so grateful that in my last email to her I told her how much she has meant to me. This is the type of message one would convey to someone on their deathbed. I sent the email a week before she died. I didn't hear back, of course. Sometime soon after she fell and had then been in hospice for 3 or 4 days.

Such a beautiful human being. I miss you. The world misses your lovely spirit. Annette, I know you will R.I.P.  But if you're on another adventure, I wish you, my friend, with much love, un très bon voyage


Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Nancy Kilpatrick Writer: ORIGINAL VS. REMAKES...PONDERING FILMS #1 in a p...

Nancy Kilpatrick Writer: ORIGINAL VS. REMAKES...
#1 in a p...
: ORIGINAL VS. REMAKES... PONDERING FILMS  #1 in a potential blog series Recently I watched MEET JOE BLACK on Netflix and because I don...
#1 in a potential blog series

Recently I watched MEET JOE BLACK on Netflix and because I don't usually read reviews before watching a movie but I do read synopses and might view trailers, I didn't know in advance that this movie was a modern remake of DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY.  I saw the 1930s movie decades ago during a phase when I was enamored with black and white cinema.  As I watched MEET JOE BLACK, I was reminded of the b&w film DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY, and decided to rewatch that early movie but found only a crappy copy on YouTube.  Still, it was worth the refresher. Later, I was checking out one of the actors on IMDB and discovered another DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY, a TV movie from the 1970s which I didn't know about so I watched that as well on YouTube.  (I noticed that there were TV shows or episodes but didn't watch those.)  

This is something I tend to do a lot, mostly because if I've seen the original film or an older version of a more current movie, I normally don't have much recall about the whole of it, just a feeling, and flashes of independent scenes that have lingered in my brain.  But I find it kind of fun to look at the major versions and within their various contexts, compare.  So, here goes:


Death Takes a Holiday is based on a 1924 Italian play (La Morte in Vacanza) written by Alberto Casella (1891-1957), adapted in English for Broadway in 1929 by Walter Ferris.  Amazon has the play here:

Death Takes a Holiday. A Comedy in Three Acts


Death cannot figure out why mortals cling to life. The Grim Reaper takes 3 days off to become human and check it out. Everybody tells Thanatos that love is the thing.


DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY - 1934 - This black and white film stars Fredric March as Prince Sirki/Death. Stylish in the mode of the day, with allusions to Nazi Germany, it's packed with old-school philosophy which Death as the Prince and later as himself is happy to dispense. Beautiful costumes, a crowd of wealthy people on holiday at a lovely estate. Grazia (Evelyn Venable) is psychically inclined, in love with the mysterious and ultimately dumps her boyfriend and falls for Death as he falls for her. Only the estate owner knows that the Prince is Death but is forced to tell the other guests when Grazia's life is on the line. But Death, vocalizing more philosophy which includes a bit of a rant about his eternal pain and how can humanity's petty concerns and grievances possibly compare, is seemingly understood by the guests yet they do not agree with him. Still, he takes Grazia with him into the otherworld because he wants her, and she wants to go.

DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY - 1971 - Monte Markham stars as David Smith/Death. It's a 70s-style movie with an expectation of disco music permeating the film. It doesn't, but there is one extremely long motorboat race that has a lot of whurring sounds accompanying it. The wealthy Chapman family is reminiscent of the Kennedy clan and their tragedies. The youngest, prettiest daughter Peggy is a daredevil, played by Yvette Mimieux, who drowns at the beginning of the movie, yet doesn't because Death is at the start of his 3-day human experience and rescues her because no one can die while he's on vacation. Meanwhile, during Death's holiday, bodies are piling up on Earth but the Chapman's on the island retreat they own are unaware of this most of the film. The senior dad, Judge Earl Chapman, is played by Melvyn Douglas. Chapman is ready and not ready to die. Through various illnesses, he now recognizes Death—he's seen him waiting in the wings during several strokes he's suffered. He insists Death should take him instead of daughter Peggy. But Death--who talks concepts that go over the heads of this family, including Peggy's cousin who is in love with her—says he doesn't have the power to do a switch.  Only mom, Selena Chapman, played by Myrna Loy looking very Rose Kennedy, understands that Peggy has to have this complete soul-connection love.  Death wants Peggy and Peggy wants Death so he takes her with him because she wants to go.

MEET JOE BLACK -  1998 - Brad Pitt stars as Joe Black/Death, and I think this is a great spin on the character, reminiscent of the attractive Greek youth of demise, Thanatos. This is a modern story, Death here to take William Parrish—perfectly portrayed by Anthony Hopkins—on his 65th birthday.  Parrish heads an enormous newspaper empire. Joe is a real person who meets Parrish's daughter Susan (Claire Forlani) at a coffee shop and while they are attracted to one another, they part and, unknown to her,  he is hit by a car. Death instantly grabs his body and visits William Parrish and they cut a deal.  For 3 days Death will be by the side of Parrish to learn why life is so damned precious. They have a sort of fun relationship and there is black/Black humor to be had. Ultimately Black/Death falls for Susan and she falls for him but her dad—who has accepted his own impending demise—doesn't like this relationship and confronts Death with solid heart and sound philosophical reasons why it's wrong to take Susan too. Death thinks about this. Meanwhile, Death helps Parrish sort out his messy business and the swindler who made it that way before leading him beyond the veil. Death reveals his true self to Susan and Forlani's acting in this bit is nothing short of brilliant. She will go with him but ultimately, Death takes the high road and allows the distraught, grieving-for-lost-love Susan to live...and returns unharmed 'Joe', the body he 'borrowed', so the two can start over from the coffee shop meeting.


Of the 3 films, it's a tossup for me between DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY 1934 and MEET JOE BLACK 1998.  I like them both a lot.  Despite 63 years between these films shot in and reflecting differing film styles and the societal norms of their eras, each is terrific and Death in both is an intriguing character. Death reveals his true identity to the female of choice and the reactions are fascinating. DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY 1971 feels shallow to me, Death wooden. I cannot see the chemistry between David/Death and Peggy.  It is definitely there in the other two films. I mean, come on! Death is a cold, jaded character and needs something pretty astounding to pierce that otherworldly dark armor, and while Mimieux is cute and perky, I don't see her longing as in the other two versions. Maybe the director thought 'cute' would be enough, but that does not cut it for me. Peggy likes to explore new and dangerous adventures and I kept wondering how soon she will be 'over' Death and that eternal relationship in the hereafter. I also like the dialogue in the 1934 and 1998 films, which touches on the profound.  1971 reeks of the '70s era approach that I find annoying (and this is me, who had a relatively good time in the '70s!).  The fact that weighty monologues fly over the heads of most of the Chapman clan speaks volumes about both the film and the decade.


Feel free to opine here at the bottom of this blog, or come visit my Facebook page and post a comment under this blog post (June 6).

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Nancy Kilpatrick Writer: BLACK KNIGHT - BLUE QUEENa faintly-Romantik vague...

Nancy Kilpatrick Writer: BLACK KNIGHT - BLUE QUEEN
a faintly-Romantik vague...
: BLACK KNIGHT -  BLUE QUEEN a faintly-Romantik vaguely Erotik F a i r y t a l e read by Nancy Kilpatrick, writing as D e s i r...


a faintly-Romantik vaguely Erotik


read by Nancy Kilpatrick, writing as

Desirée Knight 


Friday, February 21, 2020