My heart is heavy with the news this evening about the passing of Nora Ephron. It’s hard to believe and with every tweet/obituary and remembrance I read, I just keep getting sadder.
Nora Ephron. Amazing writer, director, woman.
For ladies of a certain age, and we don’t have to say our age, but let’s just say we grew up in the 80’s, Nora Ephron’s movies and stories were a big deal. They made us believe in the fantasy of love in the movies (when the term chick-flicks was probably born) but somehow relatable to our lives. Nevermind that I was just in high school, the premise of When Harry Met Sally felt like it could be applied to me and all my friends. Todas eramos la “Sally”… (It also introduced us to Harry Connick Jr. who did the soundtrack of the movie.)
Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally” 1989. “I came here tonight because when you realize that you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible…”
Her writing was smart, funny, had memorable quotes which we can say verbatim, and still manages to hook us in everytime one of her movies is on television. I’ve probably watched most of them a hundred times, and will see it again if I come across it. “You’ve Got Mail” and “Sleepless in Seattle” are my favorites, but then you look at “Julie and Julia” and you are blown away by the performances and the story. Nora Ephron was so massively talented, and so wise and funny, that it seems unfair she should go, when there were so many more stories to tell.
Late in 2010 I was going through a hard time with some personal stuff and happened to listen to an interview on NPR as I was driving. I had to stop the car and have one of those “driveway moments” where you can’t turn the radio off. She was promoting a new book of essays called “I Remember Nothing” but the interview was so fantastic, I had an Aha! moment on the spot. Looking back I wish I could’ve contacted her then to thank her personally for her wisdom and wit. It all seems so relevant today.
Here’s an excerpt of the interview “I Remember Nothing” by Renee Motaigne (All Things Considered)
My religion is ‘Get over it,'” says Ephron. “And I was raised in that religion. That was the religion of my home — my mother saying, ‘Everything is copy; everything is material; someday you will think this is funny.’ My parents never said, ‘Oh you poor thing.’ It was work through it, get to the other side, turn it into something. And it worked with me.”
She also credits her parents with teaching her to focus on the funny side of even the saddest things.
“My mother (taught) me a very fundamental lesson of humor, which is that if you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you, but if you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your joke,” explains Ephron. “And you’re the hero of the joke because you’re telling the story.”
Despite all the I’m-getting-old jokes in Ephron’s new book, the last chapter, called “The O Word,” takes on a more elegiac and wistful tone as Ephron considers the serious implications of aging.
“You do get to a certain point in life where you have to realistically, I think, understand that the days are getting shorter, and you can’t put things off thinking you’ll get to them someday,” she says. “If you really want to do them, you better do them. There are simply too many people getting sick, and sooner or later you will. So I’m very much a believer in knowing what it is that you love doing so you can do a great deal of it.”
For Ephron, there was a moment that helped bring that realization vividly home. She was with friends, playing a round of “What would your last meal be?”
(Her pick, by the way: a Nate & Al’s hot dog.)
“But (my friend) Judy was dying of throat cancer, and she said, ‘I can’t even have my last meal.’ And that’s what you have to know is, if you’re serious about it, have it now,” Ephron says. “Have it tonight, have it all the time, so that when you’re lying on your deathbed you’re not thinking, ‘Oh I should have had more Nate & Al’s hot dogs.
So Thank You Nora Ephron! Godspeed to you and I’m sure you’ll be delighting the angels with your stories up in heaven.
A good amount of links have been popping up all over. Here are some notable ones:
NY Times: From Sharp Edges to Sugary Success
NY Times: Writer and Filmmaker with a Genius for Humor
LA Times: Nora Ephron: A Life in Pictures
Stars react to Nora Ephron’s death
Five Great Nora Ephron Movie Scenes