There are few events in our life that have the momentous weight of a memorial. But as weighty as Roger Ebert’s passing is and was to so many of us—we who never met him but still “knew” him—this special commemoration was just like him. One moment we were sharing a moment of wry wit, the next, pondering one of the many insights we had learned by “following” Roger.
Everything about this Celebration of Life reminded us of the remarkable man Roger was (and will continue to be in our hearts and minds). His legacy is intellectual, spiritual, ethereal. We were blessed with his eternally brilliant, kind, insightful, idealistic philosophy:
“Kindness covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do.
To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our happiness, our circumstances.
We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to
find it out.”
And I and the throng that stood outside in the cold and rain waiting to get inside and celebrate this wonderful, kind man’s life, are happy we lived long enough to read his words and learn from him. Listen to Alison Cuddy of WBEZ describe it: https://soundcloud.com/tags/chicago%20theatre
Once the spectacular program got under way, I wasn’t the only person who was giddy! The seemingly endless list of legends, literati, and luminaries was beyond impressive: the variety of personal and professional connections crossed every conceivable boundary.
But it was Roger Ebert’s love of movies that drew us in drew us in, together and ultimately showed us the art of film.
This historical note appears at the top of Chaz’s blog:
"Roger Ebert became film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967. He is the only film critic with a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame and was named honorary life member of the Directors' Guild of America. He won the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Screenwriters' Guild, and honorary degrees from the American Film Institute and the University of Colorado at Boulder."
In short, he changed the film industry. Today, the art of film making has been elevated in a way that is truly inspirational. I believe it was that transformative process that kept Roger Ebert working—writing, thinking, blogging, viewing—until two days before his death. After the beautiful celebration of his life, I am also persuaded that he did not do this alone. It was the love he and Chaz shared that brought him so much peace and deep spiritual joy.
As Chaz said:
“He fought a courageous fight. I’ve lost the love of my life and the world has lost a visionary, and a creative and generous spirit who touched so many people all over the world. We had a lovely, lovely life together, more beautiful and epic than a movie. It had its highs and the lows, but it was always experienced with good humor, grace and a deep abiding love for each other.’
Just one more observation I’d like to share with you. The celebration was held in the Chicago Theatre, the same building where Ebert, Siskel, Roeper and many other movie critics screened the films they reviewed.
The Chicago Theatre was scheduled for the wrecking ball, but thanks to Ebert’s efforts and influence, it was magnificently renovated. What a fitting tribute to Roger Ebert that his homage would take place in this opulent setting. Roger's passing is truly the end of an era.