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Posts tagged: Death

We Remember Everything…Nora Ephron

She Bewitched us and gave us Heartburn. She sent us (You’ve Got) Mail. We learned secrets deep within Silkwood and wondered if just maybe the best romance begins between best friends, like Harry Burns and Sally Albright. Every woman on the planet remembers Meg Ryan’s restaurant scene, feigning sexual pleasure between bites of her deli sandwich.   “I’ll have what she’s having,” evokes giggles every time I hear the phrase.  

Nora Ephron left us quietly yesterday, but she left us with a legacy of entertaining, truth-filled, messages. When we view her work, read her words, it is easy to think, “This is My Life.”

Actress Meryl Streep says of Ephron: “You could call on her for anything: doctors, restaurants, recipes, speeches, or just a few jokes, and we all did it, constantly. She was an expert in all the departments of living well.”

In her recent book, I Remember Nothing, Ephron notes all that she will miss after she departs this world: her kids, her husband, taking a bath, coming over the bridge to Manhattan.

We will miss the little pieces of life that she so artfully bridged for us – from her brilliant mind to the bookstore shelves, to the silver screen, to the theatre’s stage and into our hearts. Her life lessons remain.

(S-R photo: Nora Ephron 2010)

Alike in life and death

The  twin sisters who were found dead last month in their California home do have family – and those cousins have been located.

The two women were once starlets – a term from their era – and then left the spotlight for a life of isolation and seclusion. No one knows why.

We may learn more about their deaths from toxicology reports in weeks to come.

The greater question: What was the motivation to totally cut themselves off from everyone, family and stranger alike?

(S-R archives photo)

Friendship, now, forever

My good friend would be 76 -years -old today; she died last year. Yet, we will remember and celebrate her life today.  Her humor and grace remain. And, oh, those stories!

 When I brought my fiancé to meet her, she gushed over him with oozing charm and then with a straight face said, “Oh, Cathy, he's not as homely as you said he was!”  Fortunately, my man knew she was kidding. We once “upgraded” the artwork in our boss's office with paint-by-number Jesus art and hideous knitted decor  ..Mostly, when I needed comfort, she showed up: I was experiencing a complicated miscarriage and she came and sat with me…when my husband was recovering from cancer surgery, she braved a violent thunderstorm, and sat with us in our power-is-out, cold-in-here  house, and when my dad died, she flew across the country to attend his funeral service.

 She suffered from debilitating arthritis, but her own pain did not stop her from showing up, staying close when other people were suffering and needed her.  I miss her in the moments of my life - when I hear a good joke, when I hear someone in pain, when I simply want to relax in the comfort of a knowing friend.

 Today, I will pray at Mass in thanksgiving for our friendship and her gifts that remain. And share breakfast with her family. And know that her soulful presence fills our hearts, always.

 How do you remember loved ones after they are gone?

Happy, healthy, dead

My mom is 90 years old and she has a handful of 90-something friends left, most of them women.

 They all are still pretty sharp, opinionated and open to rather personal questions.

Yesterday, my mom and I visited Pauline Cafaro (shown here on the left), who lives in an independent retirement community. Pauline was one of those outspoken women I loved from my younger days, because she always told you what she thought about you. (Cute hair, bad hair, looking thin, looking chubby, you get the idea.)

Anyway, we came around, easily, to the subject of how these women want to die.

Pauline's hoping to go in her sleep. So I told her the mantra my friend Chris told me once: Every night before you go to bed, repeat: “happy, healthy, dead.”

It won't mean you'll die that night, or even hope to, but it's a wish to be happy and healthy up to the last day of your life. Pauline liked it and wrote it in her notebook.

Mom, on the other hand, wants a few weeks or months of warning so people can bid her good-bye and she can do the same.

The conversation was filled with laughs and openness.  I'd encourage others to try these conversations with the older people in your lives. You'll know soon enough whether it's a place they'd prefer not to wander. But most older people think about these things, and even discuss it with friends, and it's fascinating to listen to these conversations.

You can’t take it with you

One reality we all face — rich, poor or middle — is this:

When you die, you can't take any of it with you. Not the millions of dollars in the bank. Not the furniture, the cars, the McMansions.

Death is the final, and great, economic leveler.

So it seems fitting, and somehow cosmically fair, that many studies show that great wealth does not translate to great happiness.

This month's Atlantic magazine article has a fascinating story on an in-depth survey taken of 165 super rich households, 120 of which have at least $25 million in assets.

Here's the “nut graph” as we say in the journalism biz:

The respondents turn out to be a generally dissatisfied lot, whose money has contributed to deep anxieties involving love, work, and family. Indeed, they are frequently dissatisfied even with their sizable fortunes.

One of the antidotes to this despair? Giving a lot of money away, the article explains.

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About this blog

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.

Ask a question: Catherine welcomes questions about aging issues and grief. Email her at

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