I never paid much attention to what Roger Ebert said about movies.
Given that I usually take-in only three or four films a year, Ebert’s analysis of any particular film or actor or “scene” just wasn’t going to be something that would capture my attention.
But the final seven years or so of Ebert’s life offer some seriously thoughtful and thought provoking lessons, for those who still care to learn. Whether you reside on the right or left side of the political and cultural aisle doesn’t much matter. Consider some of the facts of Ebert’s final years, and the implications of his actions.
First, Ebert suffered with multiple bouts of cancer for over a decade, yet he and his wife Chaz Hammelsmith Ebert remained married and supportive of each other. Initially diagnosed with cancer of the thyroid in 2002, Roger would discover cancer in his salivary gland a year later. After being in remission for periods of time, he eventually contracted cancer in his jaw bone (which necessitated the removal of his jaw), and he lost his voice. Through all of this, he and were seemingly inseparable.
The things that the Eberts said and wrote about each other during their roughly twenty years of marriage were sufficiently extraordinary, even for otherwise healthy spouses. Yet despite Roger’s immense health struggles, neither of them seemed to have been deterred. Even in the past few years as a voiceless Roger absolutely needed Chaz to speak on his behalf, both out in public and in television interviews, never once did you see either of them convey anything short of love and respect for the other, and neither of them ever seemed awkward or uncomfortable with Roger’s diminished functioning. In a country where the legal definition of marriage remains a widely contested public policy issue all the while more than half of the nation’s marriages end in divorce, the Eberts, whether they intended to or not, publicly emulated what a marriage should be about -both in sickness and in health.
Secondly, Roger’s determination to remain professionally and publicly active despite his debilitations says some extraordinary things – both about Roger’s character, and about the value of human life itself. Losing your voice and having your face become severely disfigured is undoubtedly awful for anybody, but for someone who makes their living in front of tv cameras, such circumstances could be a career killer.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.