For my dear friend Roger Ebert, and other loved ones lost in 2013

A young Roger Ebert in the Sun Times features department where we sat "desk to desk."

Tough year, 2013. For me.

It was the year my friends and I really talked like old folks when we met or phoned. First, the cataloging of new aches, pains and pills. Then, the obits.

We'd done the obits for a while, actually, my friends and I. Usually lamenting the deaths of the icons of our youth -- actors, musicians, writers we had turned to for solace and wisdom. I think it may be particularly difficult for people of my generation to deal with these losses. All young people believe they're invincible, but we were a particularly self-confident lot, us "60s" kids.

Hipper-than-thou, we were, the kids at the vanguard of the political and social scenes for which the 60s and 70s are remembered. I have a theory that the Karl Roves, Rush Limbaughs and other architects of the Tea Party and other arch-conservative movements were "squares" who couldn't get laid back then -- all that raw, raving anger can't be just about politics.

Only the wounded strike out with such poisonous passion. And we kinda had it comin'. An insufferable lot we could be, so absolutely sure we had a lock on the ills of society's ills and how to cure them.

We were right, though, quite often. And all that moxie did change things -- some of us died young to make sure. But those of us who lived on felt, even more than all young people before and since I think, that we were indestructible. And would not, as The Who suggested, die before we got old. Or grow old, for that matter.

This year, I knew I was old. And among the lamented were, for the first time, close friends who'd shared my journey.

The first and most difficult for me, still, to release, was Roger Ebert, my old Sun Timescolleague and biggest "fan"who believed in my talent more than anyone, always.

I'm not sure he ever forgave me for walking away from journalism back in the 80s, though it was something he said that gave me the courage to do it. He suggested, over one of our long and sometimes almost entirely liquid lunches, that reporters should quit after five years, to save their souls.

We saw too much, had too much access to too many things -- I totally knew what he meant. As a features reporter I was often on the red carpet. And leapt into the limo with the band after the show for the mad dash to the after party. Or to the lonely hotel rooms, where they sat up 'til the wee hours, trying to make sense of the blurry, sparkly but finally rather empty world stardom actually was.

Everything begins to feel empty, over time. But Roger felt that my youthful laughter, as I talked on the phone to the boys in those bands, meant that I would survive it all -- he wrote me the most beautiful email I've ever received about those days. And the solace he found in that laughter and the affectionate lilt in my voice.

Three years ago, when I almost died before him, I received emails, almost daily, from him. He had almost died himself, of course. And said he knew how it felt when "your body is attacking itself." And helped me endure it.

lived for those daily Ebert emails. Literally. They prepared me for the indignities of grave illness. And gave me the courage to fight my way back.

The day he died, I felt it before I knew it. I had a lunch engagement with a friend, but...I couldn't get dressed for it. I couldn't think straight. Find things.

I'd had a strange dream, too, about leaping from great heights and soaring as if I were hang gliding. I would jump... and soar. Jump... and soar.

He was flying away, Roger, I know now. But that day, I didn't know until I got home and saw the headline on my home page.

I said only, very calmly as I recall, "He's gone." And deleted the email I'd been meaning to send him that day.

I scan my emails for his every day, still -- it's a reflex action. And then I remember. And my heart hurts.

The second death that stunned me was a woman friend I'd corresponded with for decades, too. Her nickname was Lady Barbara. She was an herbalist, whose magic concoctions could cure everything but the cancer that ate its way through the belly she used to dance with--she could really shake that thang after she learned how. She taught others to undulate like that as well.

And then one day big holes began to open up on it--I've never seen or heard of anything so gruesome. Her body attacked her, too. From the inside out. Surgeons would try to reconnect her innards. But her belly would spit the staples out through those gaping, oozing holes--excruciatingly painful.

Roger shared a horror story with her, too, bless him. And at the very end, she wrote about the process of dying with such a clear, cool head that it was easy for her friends to forget what we were reading--a detailed account of how the body shuts down.

The last email was from her daughter, telling us that there would be no more.

So 2013, for me, was a year of leave taking. There will be more of that, much more, from now on. Roger and Barbara prepared me well. But I'd rather have them back.

But...goodbye, my Lady. Good bye, dear Roger. Goodbye, 2013. Damn you.

Photo received from Roger Ebert before his death, with his permission for use.

Cynthia Dagnal-Myron's book of essays, The Keka Collection, can be purchased

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Views: 102

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on December 31, 2013 at 12:46pm

Thanks; and Bless you.

Comment by Keka on December 31, 2013 at 1:38pm

You're so welcome--and happy '14!

Comment by Lyle Elmgren on December 31, 2013 at 4:54pm

I do not consider death to be a devastating loss. And belief me, I have plenty of death experiences with my friends and family. These people added value to my life. Be happy your departed loved ones were in your life. Be positive about today and the tomorrows.  Best for 2014+

Comment by Arthur James on December 31, 2013 at 5:05pm


One day at a DC Farmer's Market`


and Marker Manager ` Gloria, and

Michael, my Son` . . . ` Lewis ( 4 )

said to me This` . . . "Pa Pa, one day

you will be Happier . . . Than Ever You

Have Ever Been . . . You ( Pa Pa ) will

die, and go-off . . . YOU'LL ` Go To A

Galaxy Far` off` Away. Lewis was so

Into` Star Wars - Lewis says Great Stuff.


No Fear Life

No Fear Death

Love caste Off

irrational ` Fear.

Fear can be` Respect.

FEAR can be` Evil.

We choose ` Good,

or` we choose` Evil.

Comment by Keka on December 31, 2013 at 5:53pm

There is much truth in these wise words--and I am, believe me, grateful for the beauty we shared. Oddly...I've never feared death or dying, because I "died" as  kid. Drowned. Seriously. Died. And it was like...floating, as you've heard. Easy and free. Almost didn't want to "wake up."

I just miss my friends. A lot. And suddenly realized that I was losing a lot of them lately. I've seen death, and been through it--almost twice, now, actually. They are free now, for sure. And after what they dealt with here, toward the end, boy do they ever deserve that! 

But I miss 'em. I do. Will always. Just...more some days, like today, as I move on without them here on this side. They're by my side, though. Forever.

Comment by Arthur James on December 31, 2013 at 9:04pm


Life is a dream.

We get peeks.

No text in grave.


I go to a gathering now.

We assemble to cheer.

Hope we Here next year.

We be Here 1,000 years.

We duh or shine as stars.

We twinkle in darkness,

and yearn to cuddle two.

I pop off & heehaw ` gin

I discover no ALC ` %

Olde' Heritage sassafras

Root Beer in Gal Jug.

It has slight fizzy tang.

Comment by Keka on January 1, 2014 at 5:15pm


Life is a dream.

We get peeks.

THANK you for that, alone--the rest is sublime, but And...I LOVE Sassafras. A gallon jug? Happy New Year indeed!

Comment by Myriad on January 1, 2014 at 8:26pm

This was beautifully written...and sad...and yet uplifting.

Comment by Keka on January 2, 2014 at 5:46pm

Myriad, those last days were sad but uplifting, too. So I had to say one last "goodbye." Glad you came by to read it! Thank you!


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