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Friday, August 18, 2006


I ran into a filmmaker I know who said he had a gift for me.

"No gifts," I snapped. (It's a journalism thing; we're wary about accepting anything from a person we've written about or may write about, lest we give the impression that Swag Equals Ink.)

"No, you'll want this," he said, promising it would show up at the office.

Sure enough, a couple of days later, there was an envelope on my desk containing a DVD marked "For Mark." Once home, I popped it in and saw something I never knew existed. It was a couple of minutes of footage of Kathy taking a group photo of the cast of a movie that was shot locally. This happened a long time ago -- maybe 10 years -- but we had no idea we were being filmed. The sequence, which has no sound (the filmmaker added unobtrusive jazz background music), is the only footage I've ever seen that captures how Kathy did what she did, how she got so many special images.

Kathy is seen standing on a chair (she often did this, as she preferred a higher vantage point for faces). I'm at her side, as I always was, "spotting" her so that she felt secure balancing herself while looking through the lens. Kathy gently coaxes the cast into position with a very charming, easygoing manner. Once she sees what she wants, the flash goes off, followed by a few more ("insurance," she used to call it). The footage keeps rolling as pleasantries are exchanged and we pack up to leave. The footage, shot by professionals, is crystal clear and well lit. It was like seeing Kathy again after 11 months apart.

I called the filmmaker to thank him. "I was worried that it wouldn't be a good time," he said.

"Not at all," I said. "It's been a while now. I'm a big boy. I really loved seeing it."

His reticence echoed something my brother told me a few months ago. He said he knew that during our conversations, he hadn't mentioned Kathy in a long time, but he didn't want me to think he'd forgotten her. It's just that he didn't want to bring her up out of the blue, just in case it would suddenly make me sad. I assured him he could bring her up any time he wanted, because she is certainly on my mind every minute, no matter how masterfully I hide it from the world.

But I soon discovered I wasn't as Teflon as I assured the filmmaker I was.

I became extremely sad for almost a week, something I connected to seeing Kathy in that footage. It was as if all this time, I had been trying to forget her, and this footage erased all of that effort. Does that make sense?

But during those times of unbearable sadness, I reflect on an analogy my counselor gave me, one I share with anyone facing this kind of loss: Grief is like the ocean. Some days, there are huge, crashing waves. Some days, it's very calm. So when I get really sad, at least I know that the following day, or the day after that, the ocean may be calm.


Anonymous Gail Jeanne said...

That brought a chill to my spine and a tear to me eye, the way you described her, standing on the chair (I've seen that pose of hers a few dozen times myself). I hope those images of seeing her again will bring you comfort and a smile for years to come, rather than longing and sadness.

It's still so increadibly sad. We all miss her so.

12:32 PM, August 22, 2006  

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