“Well, sister, the time has come for me to ride hard and fast.”*
Another of my old work friends has passed away. Sigh.
Jane and I hit it off right away when we met fifteen years ago. She was the film guru at our flyover institute and led the Wednesday afternoon movie class for as long as I knew her without a break.
She was from an old flyover family
and knew everybody and how things worked in our town. We shared many a wink-wink moment. And, of course, she knew a lot about movies and we could talk and talk about our old favorites and more recent ones too. We both loved Paul Newman and John Wayne. We didn’t always agree (she was a fan of Martin Scorcese) but we respected each other’s opinion.
Her movie classes usually had a theme, like Biographies of the Creative Genius or Surprise Endings or Handsome Hunks of Hollywood’s Heyday. Not surprisingly, her courses were very popular. Last summer she finally offered a course entitled “Jane’s Faves” in which she showed her favorite films in four genres: Red River (1948) (Western), 2001: A Space Odyssey (Sci-Fi), A Star is Born (1954) (Musical), and Dr. Zhivago (1965) (Romance). Her last class was a retrospective of Ingrid Bergman’s career and we chose the movies together.
Tall and willowy and beautiful, Jane became weaker over the years, relying on an oxygen tank, and finally she rode around on a motorized scooter. She never gave up until the very end. When she couldn’t give her class anymore, much less leave her house, she cashed in her chips. A lapsed Episcopalian, she had lost her faith along the way and had decided that there was nothing waiting for her after death–just nothingness, the end. I’m glad her family is going to have a service for her, even if it is at the Ethical Society.
Tonight I will toast Jane and watch Red River in her memory. I remember telling her how smart I thought Montgomery Clift was in it, standing back and never trying to steal a scene from John Wayne, and how, ironically, you can’t keep your eyes off him in that movie. “Yes! Yes!” she said in her raspy voice, her eyes shining.
Into paradise may the angels lead thee, Jane, and at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee, and bring thee into the holy city Jerusalem.
*Rooster Cogburn in True Grit (1969)