ROGER EBERT (1942-2013)
film critic, screenwriter, Pulitzer Prize for Criticism
THE WISDOM AND COURAGE OF ROGER EBERT
This following piece on Roger Ebert was originally written for our Perspectives on Cancer series in 2011. I don’t know how well known Roger Ebert is outside of the United States; and while he is best know and appreciated as a journalist and film critic, I feel his inspiring response to catastrophic illness makes him a true hero and role model for anyone anywhere. Earlier this week the Chicago Sun Times announced Roger Ebert’s death from cancer.
Roger Eberts cancer and treatments took away his jawbone, his ability to speak, and even his ability to eat and drink. He continued writing right to the end, said that when he wrote he was just like his old self, and he wrote his last tweet two days before his death. Of his life online, he said:
Now we live in the age of the Internet, which seems to be creating a form of global consciousness. And because of it, I can communicate as well as I ever could. We are born into a box of time and space. We use words and communication to break out of it and to reach out to others.
For me, the Internet began as a useful tool and now has become something I rely on for my actual daily existence. I cannot speak; I can only type so fast. Computer voices are sometimes not very sophisticated, but with my computer, I can communicate more widely than ever before. I feel as if my blog, my email, Twitter and Facebook have given me a substitute for everyday conversation. They aren’t an improvement, but they’re the best I can do. They give me a way to speak. Not everybody has the patience of my wife, Chaz… But online, everybody speaks at the same speed.” Roger Ebert
Born in Urbana, Illinois to parents of modest means who wanted a better life for him then they had, Ebert’s affinity for writing and film were encouraged. He went to Urbana High School, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is known for his film column in the Chicago Sun-Times (1967 – April 4, 2013), his film guide books, and for the television programs he did in collaboration with Gene Siskel and later Richard Roeper. Ebert struggled with alcoholism. He is married to a trial attorney, Charlie “Chaz” Hammel Smith, now Chaz Ebert and VP of Ebert Company.
In 2002, Ebert was diagnosed with salivary cancer. He received radiation treatments and multiple surgeries that effected his speech. In 2006, more cancer was found in his jaw bone. He was rushed to the hospital when his carotid artery burst and he “came within a breath of death.” The jaw bone was removed. Between one thing and another, he suffered through excessive bleeding, loss of muscle mass, deformity, a jaw prosthetic, and the loss of his voice. In the TED Award video below, he informs us of his – among other things – experiments with different voices.
I have always admired Roger Ebert as a writer, film critic, and the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Since he has been living with cancer and then the fallout from cancer, I have come to admire Roger Ebert, the man. He has shown himself to be a world-class role model and a first class human being. As you will see, through it all, he has retained his sense of humor. Write on Roger …
ROGER EBERT: Remaking My Voice
Photo credits ~ Ebert at the 2004 Savaanah Film Festival by Rebert under GNU Free Documentation License and Lillian Boutte and Roger Ebert by Jon Hurd under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Both photos via Wikipedia.
Video upload to YouTube by TEDtalksDirector.
Belated addition to this post 12:22 a.m.: I just found this lovely essay by Roger Ebert entitled, “I do not fear death …” on Salon’s site. Link to it HERE.
Jamie Dedes ~ My mother lived with cancer of one sort or another for forty years. She was diagnosed with cancer the first time at thirty-six. She was pregnant with me, her second and last child. She had a radical mastectomy and radiation treatments while pregnant. Ultimately, she went three rounds with breast cancer, one with thyroid cancer, and died at seventy-six of breast and colon cancer. I pray everyday for cures. Advancements in medicine and technology give us hope. I’m also encouraged to see that we are doing more with lifestyle and nutrition (antiangiogenic foods), both prophylactically and for healing and remission, and with the soft technologies of prayer, guided visualization, energy medicine, meditation, music and art.