Saturday, July 18, 2009


Dad and I viewed a movie this week on DVD.
One True Thing (1998) More at IMDbPro »

When a tough New Yorker's Ellen's,(Renee Zellweger) mother (Meryl Streep), Kate, is stricken with a serious illness, Ellen is forced to quit her job and her relationship with her boyfriend to take care of her mother, finding out a lot of things she didn't know about her mother and father (William Hurt) and her life along the way. Written by L. Lim {}
One True Thing is a family drama revolving around a dying mother's final months in the care of her daughter. Ellen Gulden's father rebukes her for not caring enough about her mother to quit her job, move back home to Upstate New York, and leave her soulmate behind to fend for himself in their tidy New York apartment. But, when she succumbs under the strain of guilt and does as he asks, it appears that he is too busy to carry his part of the load. In fact, it begins to look like Ellen's father is more concerned with who is going to keep his life running smoothly than who will tend to his poor wife as she struggles with cancer. George Gulden is a gifted professor and English department head, but he is an unrealized novelist. His novel, "Come Back Inn," is still unfinished after many years of torturous self-editing and rewrites long after the advance he received from his publisher is spent. Still, he basks in the reflected glow of more famous and successful writers with whom he maintains tenuous ties. This realization humanizes him for Ellen who has always revered her father as something of a literary giant in spite of his occassional daliances with graduate students. Kate Gulden, dying of cancer at only 48, loves life, and loves her children and her husband. When her suffering finally ends from an overdose of morphine, the District Attorney suspects Ellen of having helped her mother to end her life. In the end, though, it seems to be Kate who still nurtures them, somehow even from the grave. Written by Mark Fleetwood {}
A few notes we had on this excellent film:
We experienced a few months living in a similar situation when Kev and Char needed us to be with the family the last months of her cancer. We see this movie as very, very real to life.
[Dad asks the daughter to leave her job and come home] Dad must support family yet he spends more time than he needs to away from her [how real, how one suspects he doesn't care enough, he needs to distance himself at times. And yet we see clearly the love each has for the other. We got really upset with Kevin because he would spend literally hours on the phone with neighbors rather than at Char's side. He was already going through grief stages. Hard for him to see one's love slowly dying.]
Char, too, had good days as when she would stand at the door with the mailman and talk on and on. So that he was flabbergasted when he learned she died. Good days and very bad days.
Kate at one point gets very angry and breaks things in the kitchen-- felt she was losing control in her home [Char laid down her laws to us-- Lest she lose control of her house-- made it clear she was still in charge-- how to set her table, where to seat the children-- how they were to be fed-- only her directions acceptable-- we felt like servants rather than family]
Bathtub scene so real. She tells helper she can do the bath herself and does so up to advanced stage. I believe this is modesty, privacy. Char would allow Luke, 3 years old, to be in the bathroom with her, he could hand her things etc. Well, one morning he came out to me and said his mom needed help. She was literally like Kate shown in the film-- no energy to rise-- to cover herself-- I was shocked by her helplessness]
There were times when Char went to the cupboard where the medicines were kept. Dad was to pass them to her throughout the day as prescribed. Times she couldn't wait and wouldn't have without strict control.
They even filmed the heavy guttural breathing hours before she died. Char, too, was now lying in a hospital bed downstairs in the family room. We stayed in an adjacent bedroom and heard that awful stressful breathing all through the final night.
There's a lesson for me, for us, in this experience. When an experience is new, a first time experience, the experience will teach each person involved something. Why anger when understanding was required. Why absent when presence so necessary. Why controlling rather than confidence in others. All things were new for each of us experiencing death from cancer in Rosendale.
So now, wondering, how often within the family have we misunderstood another because we had never had an experience.
[Understanding. A level of consciousness.] 1. Facts (the way it always is). 2. New Information. 3. A new level-- understanding. When I understand-- I can have empathy. We cannot understand what we have never been told to look for.
I would include this, for instance, our children adopting another Christian Church. This has never before happened in my ancestral family. And it was a big issue in not having it happen when dad and I married. One just didn't. One was loyal. These new churches were flaunted in our faces or so we felt them [feeling]. Even told, 'You'll go to hell'. Now I am able to understand after having the experience within our small family. I have no idea what each of you have learned but a lesson is there, a lesson in learning how to love another.

There might be an exercise here in gaining of wisdom to take each brother, sister, parent and look anew. Some information each brought to one another's attention that wasn't present before. And if weighed and understood each would learn something valuable. We would never downgrade a sibling or parent. We could feel once again we are family. Without this lesson in love we feel something negative and become judgmental
This is what God does. God knows what are our unique and individual experiences. Sees it all as a learning process-- maturation. I imagine at heaven's arrival that welcome, 'Well done good and faithful [child] servant. Enter. This is learning how to love one another. God is Love.


  1. Thanks for a really interesting review of the movie, made even more relevant by your description of how it resembled the similar situation you went through with Kevin & Charlene.

    This is exactly the type of thing you should be writing in your blog. Keep it up!

    Love, Paul

  2. Mary Kay,
    Interesting that you noted Kevin as pulling away when Char was dying. I had a dear friend pass away a few years ago and some of my friend’s were critical of her husband because he was absent much of the time near the end. I was able to point out to them that he was grieving already and he needed to pull back and let others care for his dying wife. I saw that as a “normal” reaction – whatever normal is. I suspect there are others who may never leave their dying partner’s side. Each one will handle what is given to them in their own way. Thank goodness we have a God who walks with us through those times!

    Anyway, thanks for loving us despite our differences!

    Patty Stewart

  3. Mary Kay,

    Both Carole and I saw "One True Thing" I could feel much of the pain and conflict. Since I was never there to experience Char's process of dying you have given me a whole new meaning to the movie story! We will have to see it again now that we have heard your story!

    We both lived through Carole's father dying even without the intense suffering that Char endured it was still a difficult experience.



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