Life Itself

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Life itself will bring you to your knees….but you probably already knew that. And I don’t want to spoil this poignant movie for you by giving you the rest of the beautiful quote that you will hear if you decide to hang in there until the end.

One of my minor joys in life is recommending a movie or book to someone who I know will get it the same way that I did. Who will laugh in the same place and cringe at the same scenes, and grieve with the characters the same way that I do. Usually it’s one of my kids. So at Christmas dinner this year, as we all shared our opinion on best movie of the year I insisted that everyone watch “Life Itself.”

Side note, I also have a high tolerance for grief, anger, malice, the darker or more painful aspects of human nature that a movie can offer, if it leads to a redemption at the end. I don’t mean happily ever after. By redemption I mean that in some way the protagonist finds change, transformation, hope as a result of their role in the story.

My daughter texted me the day after Christmas to let me know she was watching it. I turned it on for the second time, knowing I would be about 30 minutes behind her. It was like Thanksgiving food. Better the second time when the sense are more settled and can enjoy the flavors.

I almost felt the text coming before it did. “OK I have 20 minutes left and so far nothing redemptive. How can you watch this? It is sooooo sad,” she texted.

“Wait for it,” I texted back.

For the movie, like life, rewards us for staying in the story. Ten minutes later another text. “How can you watch this and not cry your eyes out?” I did cry my eyes out, I texted back.

The message I took away from the movie (among the many that it offered) is that life is so much deeper and richer and larger than we can see when we engage only with our suffering. And that my role when I find myself on my knees is simply to stay in the story, whatever it may present to me. And to bring to the story whatever I am there to bring. And to trust that the deep familial roots of those who came before me, and the strong wings of those who will follow me, will continue to weave into the fabric of the tapestry a redemption that I could not see from that small painful place where I collapsed.

For my story neither starts nor ends with my life, though I often think it does. And in the darkest hours of suffering, when it feels as though life has surely crumbled at my feet beyond any hope of repair, I must stay. And sometimes just watch and wait. And see what will happen. Because what we think is the end is never really the end. And Life Itself will surprise us.