I keep writing "Rogert" and not "Roger" as I type this. It's frustrating because correcting myself is slowing down my train of thought. I'm trying to say something about Roger Ebert's passing. There are feelings, certain emotions, unexplainable things, going through my head that I want to articulate but can't because I keep having to go back and correct "Rogert."
Did you know Rogert (argh, WTF?!), Roger Ebert and Oprah Winfrey went on a date? It's true. It's one of my favorite things about him. You have to be a super awesome dude for Oprah Winfrey to accept a date with you, ya feel me? And let's be real, I have tremendous respect for The Ebert, but a stud he was not. Turns out he didn't need to be a stud, because he had that mind, he had a brain that was able to woo The Oprah. That was enough for me, sold, I need to be this man.
I didn't really have a reaction to his announcement that he had cancer. I was sad, but not outwardly so. Then he lost half his face. Let me just say that again, he lost half his face (cancer is always more of an aesthetic thing until you get it yourself). I respected his continuing to write. He could have closed shop, he was already a legend, legacy sealed, he could have retired and enjoyed his final days with his beautiful wife. But he didn't do this. A writer writes. He wrote on.
As the years passed I continued to enjoy reading what he had to say. It was clear that cancer had opened him up to a level of honesty that had not previously been seen in his writing. He was always a badass, but now he had a fearless platform of honest artillery that extended well past movie reviews. No longer was he just a movie critic, he was a poet, a political commentator, a person of note that commanded attention with every noun. Attention he got.
When you get cancer you're forced into a club you never wanted to be a member of. I've gotten the diagnosis, I've had the surgery, I've done the chemo, and I've thought about death. Rationally we all know we're going to die. There's that saying, "You could get hit by a bus at any moment and drop dead." That's true. But like, watch where you're walking. When you've had cancer death gets put into perspective. It's tangible. You can feel it. It's no longer just aesthetic. If we were lining up here, people with cancer are going to the front of the death line (unless you're in many popular Asian countries where lines don't exist, then you're just kind of in a clusterfuck).
I had a good friend, Daryl, doing chemotherapy at the same time I was. We both loved the movies. He was the only other person I knew that loved Sandra Bullock as much as I do (we still haven't forgiven you Jesse James). He was taken off chemo shortly after I was, except he was taken off because there wasn't anything more they could do for him. He announced this news in a beautifully honest Facebook status update, saying that he was going home to his family and that he was content. He died a few weeks later.
I don't know if I believe in God, and I'm not sure where my faith begins and ends, but I believe in things happening for a reason. The scary timing of similar events between Daryl and I are unsettling, and I don't know what they mean, but I know they mean something. The writer in me wants to find an answer to that something. The mystery behind it is so frustrating. I could ask "What does it all mean?", but I don't want to be a douche bag.
I handle death differently now because of this. I'd lie if I said I didn't fear my own. At night I'll be alone in my bed, The Golden Girls on in the background, and suddenly I'll think, "What if I die tonight?" That thought keeps me up. Or I'll be driving and think, "What if I get in an accident and die?" I'll hear of other people dying, strangers, and cry. It's no surprise that I just started watching Six Feet Under. I value life so much now that I can't handle the thought of losing it.
I didn't know Roger Ebert but I felt like I did. I grew up respecting him, wanting to write like him, wanting his voice, wanting the ability to woo Oprah. His death, like Daryl's, frightens me. But like Daryl, it's how Ebert lived his final days that offers a glimpse into what it means to live and die. It's in the beginnings of moments with people when it's most important to be your true honest self. Daryl did this with his Facebook status update and Ebert did it through his work. It's about honesty.
"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. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter," Roger Ebert from Life Itself: A Memoir.
Honestly speaking, I am sad. Sad anyone has to die from this fucking disease (I'm using the word "fucking" here). I fucking hate cancer. Like, a lot! I am scared to die. I'm scared my cancer is going to come back in some form and take me away from the life I so value. But the prick who always brings up that god damn random bus is right, it could just happen, so what can I do about it?
I can choose to live right now in the moment I have. I can be honest with myself, my art, my writing, my friends, my family, on my OkCupid profile. And I'm grateful for Daryl and Rogert, I mean, Roger Ebert. I honestly am.