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Nora Ephron’s final days

Writer and moviemaker Nora Ephron kept her illness very secret and so her death last year shocked almost everyone.

Today in the New York Times, Ephron's son, Jacob Bernstein (his father is famous Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein) wrote a beautiful piece about his mother's illness and the final play she worked on.

Writing is big-time in Jacob's genes, and it shows in this piece. He does a terrific job explaining his mother's choice to not talk about her dying. And maybe she was in denial herself?

Ephron's end-of-days story reinforces a lot of what I learned about dying during my chaplaincy training at Rush University Medical Center last fall. Some people want to talk about their dying in depth. Others are very private or in denial to the end. And it's hard to predict who will be open and who will remain private.

Who could imagine that Ephron, who made it really famous with the book and movie Heartburn (about her messy break-up with Bernstein) would clam up at the end?

Writing is big-time in Jacob's genes, and it shows in this piece. Here's an excerpt but treat yourself today and read the whole thing.

Nevertheless, as she ran out of time, she chose not to acknowledge, at least explicitly, what was happening to her. One of the last e-mails she sent went out five days before she died. It was addressed to her film agent, Bryan Lourd. “I am as sad as you can imagine to report that I have leukemia. Early reports are not particularly hopeful but not hopeless either.”

The weekend before she went into a coma, Jerry Groopman called her from Boston. If she wanted to know, he was prepared to tell her that she had entered the terminal phase of her illness. She chose not to call him back.

(S-R archives photo)





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Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

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