A Thing About Death From October

My dear blog, how I’ve missed you. A few things took over my life, including my first feature film, and Coldplay. More on that soon.

This blog has always been the place for me to pour my mind onto the (digital) page, and for those of you who’ve been reading and following since the beginning – I sincerely thank you. I’m sorry I’ve been so quiet. I’m not trying to break up, I swear.

If you’re new, check out my interview with myself. I still get a kick out of this one. Har. Har.

Here’s something I wrote last autumn I think bears repeating. What do you think about death? Is it something you fear, or embrace?

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH DEATH?

Machete and I had the extraordinary honor last week to present at the Reimagine End of Life festival on behalf of our film Moon Manor – A Comedy About Death (Based On A True-ish Story). Our presentation was called Death Scenes: How Movies Reflect Our Final Act.

For many of us, our first experience of death is by way of film. We’ll have seen all kinds of death before seeing it in real life (if we ever do). How does this shape our expectations when the real thing happens, sans dramatic lighting, orchestral music and actors speaking lines?

We’ve felt the weight of this responsibility as we’ve shaped Moon Manor, as we’ve told the story of a life by telling the story of a death. To share space with the organizers and attendees of Reimagine was … I don’t even know the word … affirming? humbling? To be a grief walker is to shine a light into the well of our deepest fear. This current Halloween time of year is funny. The thing we least want to face is the very thing we shove into view. Skeletons and coffins decorate the grocery store, the dentist, the elementary school. Birth and death unite every human being, yet we spend our lives celebrating one end of the spectrum and mourning the other.

Not saying death doesn’t suck, I’ve witnessed it snatch away those I love so quickly I was left with nothing but whiplash and tears. But I do know the more I try to meditate on it, the more I memento mori, the more I accept my death, the more I appreciate my life.

Goodbye, Ruby Love

On June 8th, 2018 my dear grandmother “Ruby Love” departed this world for the next. She was 102.

For years I took her dinner every Sunday and painted her nails. Being closer to her was one of the best things about moving to LA. We would discuss what she was reading on her Kindle (she thought 50 Shades of Grey was “mildly entertaining”). She wore shirts that said “Seen it all, done it all, just don’t remember it all.” She loved the Lakers and Johnny Depp. Most of these photos were taken when she was 98, 99, and 100. Dear lord – I hope I have her genes. She was born before women could even vote, and yet she was my biggest teacher of tolerance – people of all faiths, colors and orientations were welcome at her table. I’m trying to not focus on the last 2 years she spent in a home, Alzheimer’s obscuring her personality, although this was also part of her journey and doesn’t need to be banished from her story. Ruby Love was a grand dame, and a muse. Uncle Jimmy and Uncle Ricky wrote a song about her, the first screenplay I ever had optioned was about her. Muse-ship doesn’t end just because a body has finished hanging out on Earth. I’d like to think it’s just the beginning.

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The essence of my grandmother is best told in the small details. For years, her exercise was walking inside the perimeter of her apartment, the route so well-worn it was a dark track in the carpet. She liked her nails painted beige or silver, never pink. She wore chic pantsuits and was a champion bowler. She loved Gatorade. My sister Jessica remembers how grandma raised a family and made her extended family important, each and every year, that she loved going to lunch, and shopping at the 99 cent Store.

My grandmother was unsentimental, blunt and sassy. She was not cookies and doilies, she was low-fat and LeSportSac bags. But in our every Sunday routine, the night would inevitably end with me putting my head in her lap so she could rake her long nails across my hair, not unlike how you’d pet a cat. Once we fell into the ritual we’d both go quiet, silently enjoying each other’s company.

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I really only knew my grandmother as a single woman living on her own, since my grandfather passed when I was little. She was living proof that a woman cannot only be happy living on her own, she can thrive.

It was only in her late 90s that she started to slow down, and that was only after she fell off a treadmill at the gym. Being on the treadmill at that age is incredible in and of itself! Assistance came in the form of Uncle Jimmy, who heroically put up with her passenger-seat driving on their errands around town.

And I want you to know something about the documentary on grandma I’ve been low-key filming for years – she was directing the footage with me. She came alive when I got out the camera. We had an agreement that I would film everything, not just the happy funny moments, but her whole process into the end of her life. She was always ahead of her time.