About a year ago, Nora Ephron passed away at the age of 71. Hers was the first female name I ever noticed under the “written by” billing of really popular movies – a spot I hope my name will one day be. The more I looked in to her body of work, the more I loved her.
It was only after she died that I found out she was invisibly ill.
I would say it was a new level of invisibility.
Nobody seemed to know about this part of her life. The news reports that day all seemed to imply that this was some great secret that she had kept from everyone. Nora Ephron, the honest, witty, down to earth writer that talked about the realities of life with just enough flippancy to capture the weirdness, sadness, and happiness that is our existence, had this dark, tragic secret waiting to take her away.
The day she died, I had so many mixed feelings. I looked up to her in a way that was different than any other role model I have. She was most known for being a “prolific screenwriter,” and there’s not a lot of ladies under that title. Her writing reminded me so much of my own. She wrote about real people, real things. Funny, but not a romantic comedy. Tearful, but not a Lifetime movie. No specific genre, just real life. Good stories. Well told. I thought one day I could be like her.
Then one movie came along that truly changed my life.
Every time I watch Julie and Julia, I cry. My heart glows, absolutely glows when Julie (and Julia) find success with their writing. That’s right! This movie isn’t about cooking. It’s about writing. And dreaming. And success. And it was with this film playing in my heart that one day I decided to start a blog. It’s still one of my greatest dreams that this blog will find real success. I’m so happy to have moved over 150 people to follow this blog, but I have bigger dreams. I want to write for a living. I want to be the next Nora Ephron.
This passion for writing was always in me, but Nora’s stories keep me believing it could actually happen. My biography could say “prolific screenwriter” instead of, you know, not existing.
And here I am reading her biographies, still looking up to her, but feeling somehow betrayed. I know many, many people who go with the school of thought that your health is your business. I have never understood people who write anonymous blogs or things like that, but I respect that it’s their choice. But I was (and still am) in shock that Nora would. Her stories were by nature a look into personal things. I’ve related to all of her characters, I’ve loved them, and I’ve wanted to be them! It would have been so easy for her to create a character that embodied strength and awareness of invisible illnesses. How could she not even mention it in her autobiographies?
It felt like an old friend had kept an important secret from me. I knew it wasn’t fair to fault my hero for this, but my heart was still wounded. You could have helped me. You could have helped us all.
One article I read put it very profoundly:
“It’s completely understandable, of course. But I can’t help thinking that Ephron’s fans might also have benefited from her baldly honest, and perhaps even slyly witty, assessment of terminal illness and mortality. It’s a conversation that needs to be had more often… Ephron apparently didn’t want, or perhaps wasn’t in a position, to have that conversation. We’re left to do it ourselves.”
But of course, it’s the selfishness of the reader that asks the writer for more when they’ve given so much. As Harry Potter fans clamor at JK Rowling for more books and Star Wars fans bash Lucas’s later films, I was raging at Nora Ephron for keeping her cancer a secret.
So I try to remember that Julie and Julia made me start this blog, and in a roundabout way that is Nora Ephron raising awareness for invisible illness. If we had ever met, I doubt she’d have known I was sick. Two people who never met with sickness that no one could see connected invisibly through space and time… invisibly, a movement was started. And I don’t think it ever would have without her.
A year ago, countless news articles read “Hollywood is shocked.”
Nora, you didn’t look sick.
Thank you for everything. Your stories inspired so many aspects of my life.
And…yes, it’s officially the middle of the night. So. I’ll end with a simple
Thank You, Nora Ephron