Farewell My Friend
The first time I read Nora Ephron, I was in a bookstore inside the Chris Town Mall and I was young and lonely. I picked up a pink copy of “Heartburn” and sat cross-legged on the floor next to my enormous and filthy backpack and I didn’t get up again until I’d finished the book. I no longer felt lonesome.
As an avid reader / writer, I noticed Ephron’s voice—one that was funny, frank, self-effacing, but never self-pitying, and utterly intimate. “That’s how bourgeois I am: at the split second I picked up the pie to throw at Mark, at the split second I was about to do the bravest—albeit the most derivative—thing I had ever done in my life, I thought to myself: Thank God the floor is linoleum and can be wiped up.” She was telling a tale of woe—the story, I didn’t realize at the time, of her famous marriage to Carl Bernstein and its unraveling, but it was somehow deeply comforting: hers was a world where humor always trumped loss.
Ephron, who died of leukemia on June 26 at the age of seventy-one, was an artist of consolation, on the page and in her movies. I have always been able to watch “Sleepless in Seattle” (which she directed) and “When Harry Met Sally” (which she wrote) over and over because not only are they funny, they are profoundly reassuring.
A few months after my husband passed away in 2010, I had this driving desire to purchase both DVD’s and spend a Saturday night lying on the couch watching the movies and hoping within my heart that yes, I could also find happiness again. I needed to laugh and to be reassured—I needed a fairy tale that might just come true. I once again depended on Ephron to provide the happy endings we all want in life.
Like many of her readers and fans, I felt a deep personal loss when I heard about her death. The sense she gave me back in that bookstore of suddenly having an insightful best friend, under whose spell everything would come out all right in the end, was a gift she kept giving strangers—women in particular—throughout her life, from her early essays about her small breasts, to her best-selling lament on aging, “I Feel Bad About My Neck.”
She lived her life, even the painful parts—on the page, and you had to laugh. If you were used to her takes on when to give up bikinis (age 34) or when to begin wearing turtlenecks (43), you might wonder why she kept her toughest struggle to herself—being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. My take is that she didn’t want her readers to pity her. That she wanted to leave them with the type of resilience she exhibited in her narratives and movies—a writing style uniquely hers.
So, thank you Nora, for giving me your famous mixture of humor and advice as I aged and matured. Thank you for giving me hope (Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally) after I lost my best friend and lover. Thank you for all your humorous anecdotes as you reckoned with your own dilemmas of life.
I didn’t realize how strong the connection was between us until I read and reread those headlines on June 26, “Nora Ephron died today.” But isn’t that what always happens in life?
“The amount of maintenance involving hair is genuinely overwhelming. Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.”