Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dealing with Death

I recently watched a film that stirred a very powerful moment of deja vu.
I'm going to share this because I need to.
Rails and Ties is a movie I picked out of the bargain bin of previously viewed movies at my local video store. Hubby and I were about to set off for a few days of down time including golf (his pick) and some reading/movie watching (my pick).

Here's commentary I found online that describes it better than I can, but beware - it's a thorough review and if you prefer to have a story unfold itself unspoilt - don't read the stuff in blue.

RAILS & TIES, under the guidance of first time director Alison Eastwood, tackles an implausible subject of multiple tragedies resulting in repairing personal breaks and with the able assistance of a group of excellent actors, makes a finely tuned, sensitive study of little lives struggling against major odds. It is well conceived, well written (Micky Levy), well acted and sincerely moving.

Tom Stark (Kevin Bacon) is a train engineer, married to his job as well as being married to his nurse wife Megan (Marcia Gay Harden) who is facing the ugly fact that her breast cancer is terminal. The cancer has spread beyond Megan's body into the tenuous space that keeps a marriage glued: Megan attempts to hide her desperate need for emotional support by continuing to work as a nurse and Tom takes on extra train runs to avoid the reality that face him at home. The other side of the story is equally sad: young Davey cares of his psychologically shattered mother and unknowingly accompanies her on a jaunt to 'see the train' - a ploy well planned by the suicidal mother to drive in front of an oncoming train to end her life along with Davey's. The conductor of the train is of course Tom Stark, and when Tom first sees the car on the tracks, he keeps to company policy that recommends gradual slowing rather than the danger of an abrupt stop: the result is the death of Davey's mother but Davey escapes the crash while trying to pull his mother from the car.
The tragedies mount: Davey is left homeless, being placed in a foster home run by the cruel 'mom' only to escape to find the 'killer' of his mother; Tom is put on leave for the incident; Megan gets the final word that she has very little time left and is ready to leave the distant Tom. It is this inadvertent entrance of Davey into the lives of Tom and Megan that results in a healing of three souls who are desperate for the connection of love.

While some may find the story implausible and saccharine, others will appreciate the manner in which Eastwood holds rein on the story, playing it for quiet honesty instead of explosive situations. Both Bacon and Harden deliver the quality of sophisticated performances that have marked their careers, and the remainder of the cast gives strong support.
This is a tough story to tell but the film holds an indelible mark on the viewer.

There are very few of us that will never have to face the death of a loved one before our own. That said, it is remarkable how ill-prepared we often find ourselves in dealing with it.
I think it must be particularly difficult for those who have (for whatever reason) not made the effort/time to ponder the three realities of life itself:
How did I get here?
What am I doing here?
Where am I going from here?
My deja vu moment? It happens at precisely 85:00 into the film.
Megan has collapsed and is rushed to hospital by Tom and Davey.
The attending physician finds the two in the hallway anxiously waiting to see her.
The doctor shakes his head and gently tells Tom that his wife wants to go home.
She wants to die at home.
Tom hasn't yet accepted that she is indeed dying and has been preparing herself to say goodbye.
His face falls and he looks away.
No words are spoken but the look on his face! Somehow, he has to find the strength and courage to honour her wish despite the abject horror he feels.
The look on his face jarred a vivid recall from deep within - and this is where I burst abruptly in a fit of tears as the memory of a very similar moment washed over me
like an emotional tsunami.
My beloved knew instinctively what this was all about and had the blessed sense to simply
pass the kleenex box and offer me a long quiet hug.
One never forgets those excruciating moments of testing - I don't think we're supposed to forget. I think we're meant to be changed and grow from them regardless of how we handle it.
But this feeling of wanting to cover my ears with my hands and run screaming from the room?
I get that totally. Yvonne was very young. It was very unnatural to watch her die - and even more unnatural to help her get to that place where she was okay with it. It was very hard and I want her husband and her daughter to know...
I get that - we all understand.

Chesley Orchestra

My sister-in-law Sue is an extraordinary musician/violinist gifted with a passion for teaching others the craft. She has single-handedly started off every string player in the extended family and managed to bring out the best in each one of them as well.
Consequently - our family gatherings and celebrations are often tended with an in-house full scale orchestra. Some sing, play the flute or clarinet, violin, cello, viola, piano or CD player.
We actually have quite a few Ipod players as well :)
I think if we'd been born a couple millennium ago we may have found ourselves in the tribe of the Levites.
We've been going to the same vacation spot en masse for the past 30 years or more and this year, Susie negotiated a plan to accompany both morning worship services ... all the pre, post and during service music. What a blast!
I asked my son to get some video coverage which regrettably, he took from the furthest back corner of the sanctuary. *sigh* Boys are so yucky.
So here's a snippet of what happens when Susie orders up a last minute rehearsal and tells you to pack your instrument for a gig at Chesley!
I love that girl.

For your benefit Nicole, I will identify the members of your family orchestra:
From L to R: Cousin Kelsey (violin) Aunt Jo (piano)
Aunt Sue (violin/concert mistress)
Cousin Megan (cello) Cousin Brittany (flute)
Cousin Kayla & Jamie (violins)
Cousin Julia and Emily (violins) on the far right of the stage with
Cousin Amy (violin) in the foreground
Not shown in this particular set:
Cousin Heather (clarinet)
Cousin Brian (piano and solo voice)