Heaven Is for Real
Faith-based film tries reaching past its audience, but falls back on preaching to its own choir way too much.
For 40 years, I didn't miss a single deadline, but since July, I have missed every one. I also, to my intense disappointment, missed the Telluride and Toronto film festivals. Having just written my first review since June ("The Queen"), I think an update is in order.
Faithful readers and viewers will recall that I expected a speedy recovery from surgery for salivary cancer last June. My expert (and now beloved) doctors had an encouraging game plan, and I expected to be back at work right away. Then I had several episodes of sudden and serious bleeding.
They stabilized me, operated on me to deal with the arteries, kept me sedated to avoid disturbing the affected areas -- and then I essentially spent July and August completely out of it. I remember only fragmentary episodes.
In September, my bleeding hazards stabilized, I came off sedation to find I had lost track of two months of my life, and starred in several prayer vigils for which I am eternally grateful to my wife and tower of strength, Chaz; my family and friends, and the many clergy who came to see me.
I was so touched when Chaz described those lost months. And now I am at the famous Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago -- learning to walk again! My muscles were atrophied by the weeks of inactivity, and I became a rehabilitation candidate. It's been quite an adventure, made easier by the tireless good cheer and expertise of Dr. Jim Sliwa and his RIC team.
During all of this, I didn't lose any marbles. My thinking is intact and my mental process doesn't require rehabilitation. Visits from colleagues at the Chicago Sun-Times, "Ebert & Roeper," ABC-7 and the film world kept me informed -- although, curiously, I found myself more interested in plunging into the depths of classic novels ("Persuasion," "Great Expectations," "The Ambassadors") than watching a lot of DVDs. I prefer to see the new Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood films on a big screen, for example. But our "Ebert & Roeper" producer Don DuPree brought around a DVD of "The Queen," and when I viewed it, I knew I wanted to review it.
A few more recent movies also will be reviewed, but I won't be back to full production until sometime early next year. The good news is that my rehabilitation is a profound education in the realities of the daily lives we lead, and my mind is still capable of being delighted by cinematic greatness.
I plan to have my Overlooked Film Festival again in April, and cover the Academy Awards and Cannes. I can't wait to be back in the Sun-Times on a full-time basis, and to rejoin Richard Roeper in the "Ebert & Roeper" balcony. Dr. Harold Pelzer and Dr. Neil Fine of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and my personal physician, Dr. Robert Havey, also of Northwestern, assure me I will eventually walk, talk, taste, eat, drink and live, more or less, normally. But it will be a struggle, involving another surgery to complete what began in June.
I have discovered a goodness and decency in people as exhibited in all the letters, e-mails, flowers, gifts and prayers that have been directed my way. I am overwhelmed and humbled. I offer you my most sincere thanks and my deep and abiding gratitude. If I ever write my memoirs, I have some spellbinding material. How does the Joni Mitchell song go? "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone"? One thing I've discovered is that I love my job more than I thought I did, and I love my wife even more!
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