I started off this blog by trying to talk about end of life issues. Instead, I’ve wandered through a friend’s struggle with end of life issues; Endurance. I’ve also wandered through my own struggle with sex, romance, body image and sibling rivalry; Endurance, Part II.
But, I told you all of that to tell you this: I don’t want to end my life hooked up to machines, alone in a hospital bed.
While I’ve made it clear that I don’t believe any one tenant of a specific religion, and that heaven is guaranteed to me if I do all the “proper” things in this life, I do have some hope that heaven exists, and that there will be “something” after this endurance on earth.
As I’m watching others struggle with aging, dependency, aloneness and finances, I’m running through much of the same issues in my own life. And I have to tell you, I am very sick and tired of the whole, “Dying Well” concept, as if there is some way we could FAIL at dying. We need to get over ourselves and not be so focused on perfectionism.
In my case, I’m wondering if it’s more like the film, “What Dreams May Come” for turning everything on its head that I thought I knew or believed, only to be confronted with some new form of reality.
In my viewing (and understanding) of the story, I thought the wife was suicidal, and that Robin Williams went to death’s door to save her, because ultimately he could not accompany her through that door if she was going to kill herself.
What I did not realize until I read the Wiki today was that his character was already dead.
How did I miss that? The summary of the plotline that sent this whole storyline on its head for me is repeated as follows:
While vacationing in Switzerland, pediatrician Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams) meets artist Annie Collins (Annabella Sciorra). They are attracted to each other, and bond as if they had known each other for a long time. They marry and have two children, Ian (Josh Paddock) and Marie (Jessica Brooks Grant). Their idyllic life ends when the children die in a car crash. Life becomes difficult: Annie suffers a mental breakdown and the couple contemplates divorce, but they manage through their losses.
On the anniversary of the day they decided not to divorce, Chris is killed in another car crash. Unaware that he is dead, and confused that no one will interact with him, Chris lingers on Earth. He sees Annie’s attempts to cope with his loss and attempts to communicate with her, despite advice from a presence that this will only cause her more pain. When his attempts cause more sorrow, he decides to move on.
Chris awakens in Heaven, and learns that his immediate surroundings can be controlled by his imagination. He meets a man (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) he recognizes as Albert, his friend and mentor from his medical residency, and the presence from his time as a “ghost” on Earth. Albert will guide and help in this new afterlife. Albert teaches Chris about his existence in Heaven, and how to shape his little corner, and to travel to others’ “dreams”. They are surprised when a Blue Jacaranda tree appears unbidden in Chris’ surroundings, matching a tree in a new painting by Annie, inspired by Annie’s belief that she can communicate with Chris in the afterlife. Albert explains that this is a sign that the couple are truly soul mates. Annie decides that Chris cannot “see” the painting, however, and destroys it. At the same time, Chris sees his version of the tree disintegrate before his eyes.
Chris laments that he can no longer see his wife and soon encounters a woman who he comes to recognize as his daughter Marie, living in an area resembling a diorama that she loved in her lifetime. The two share a tearful reunion.
Meanwhile, Annie is unable to cope with the loss of her husband and decides to commit suicide. Chris, who is initially relieved that her suffering is done, grows angry when he learns that those who commit suicide go to Hell; this is not the result of a judgment made against them, but rather their own tendency to create “nightmare” afterlife worlds based on their pain. Chris is adamant that he will rescue Annie from Hell, despite Albert’s insistence that no one has ever succeeded in doing so with a suicide. Albert agrees to find Chris a “tracker” to help search for Annie’s soul.
On the journey to Hell, Chris recalls his son, Ian. Remembering how he’d called him the one man he’d want at his side to brave Hell, Chris realizes that Albert is truly Ian. Ian explains that he chose Albert’s appearance because he knew that Chris would listen to Albert without reservation. Before they part, Ian begs Chris to remember how he saved his marriage following Ian and Marie’s deaths. Chris then journeys onward with the tracker.
In my version of the story, Chris was never dead. He was always alive and always fighting to be with the woman he loved. He was afraid of losing her to simple death, not the eternal damnation to Hell from her choice to suicide.
I remember being fascinated by the alternate reality of his journey, where he sees his daughter in the lovely young asian woman. Where he realizes that he sees his son in Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s character. All this time, I thought he was in a coma or something – I was completely clueless that his character had died and was working his way through his own version of what happens next. Heaven vs. Hell and Eternity or Reboot.
Sort of living a “happy thoughts”, “Happy THOUGHTS!” Tinkerbelle moment which shapes the reality yet to be, versus dealing with a “heaven can wait” kind of storyline for one man coming to save the woman he loves from eternal damnation.
I don’t know how I got such a lovely story so drastically wrong in the observation of it – my only excuse is that that paintings and cinematography were so compelling, and my Mom’s own fascination with this story within her own end-of-life drama distracted me into watching her for clues of why she loved the story, vs. paying attention to the plot itself.
As I’m dealing with my own COPD journey and end of life issues that touch on estate planning, financial security, right to die choices, unresolved issues with siblings, family, friends and lovers, I just know I have no answers but hope that the journey continues into someplace beautiful and worthwhile.
And that any pet I’ve ever loved who loves me back will be happy to see me when I show up. Because if I have to go on to the next world and deal with more of this petty humanity b.s., I’m going to have a serious bone to pick with whomever’s in charge.