Friday, March 16, 2007

Motif of the Moving Van

Hi there,

The weekend is here! Boy, I am pretty screwed for this exam next week.

But that's not the purpose of this post...I was reading last week's issue of "Synapse" and there was this great article about a movie called "Two Weeks," a documentary on the last two weeks of a terminally ill patient's life. What struck me the most was an excerpt spoken by the director at the movie's Bay area premier, in which he describes his own personal experiences that led him to create this documentary (bolded). It seems that the director was also impressed with the image and memory of the white van taking away his mother's body at the end of an ordeal, and I am intrigued by this motif that seems to inadvertently reappear in life and in art. Since the article is short, I will repaste it here for archival purposes:

"Two Weeks: Touching Film About Death

By Catherine Dodd, Staff Writer

Many Bay Area End-of-Life practitioners attended the premiere of Two Weeks, a touching and surprisingly funny movie about four children caring for their mother during the last two weeks of her life. The premiere was a fundraiser for the Bay Area End of Life Network ( and for Final Choices (, the local and statewide organizations that encourages people to put plans in place should the “inevitable” (death) happen. The movie opened for the public on March 2. Film producer Steven Stockman spoke to the audience saying he hoped it would move people to talk about death and to plan for it.

Stockman says it happened like this: “My mother died at home, and the whole family was there. The mortuary guy came to pick up her body in an unmarked white van. He had one of those rolling stretchers where you flip a lever and the wheels pop down. My mom lived in a suburban neighborhood. It was about five in the morning, the sun was just starting to brighten the sky. The guy wheeled my mother’s body out of the house, and loaded it into the truck. I’d just had this excruciating night-long ordeal with my family and I stood there, watching from the top of the driveway as the truck pulled away. Just then, a car came up the street, dropping newspapers one at a time in the driveways of the sleeping houses. And I thought, I wake up every morning on my own street, in my own neighborhood. And somewhere, this is going on. It happens all the time, and I didn’t even know. This is part of everyday life. How come it’s hidden? Why don’t we talk about it?”

This film stars two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field who plays Anita, the mother, who is living her final Two Weeks of life. What amazed me is that while we see people die on television all the time, some violently, some quickly, never have I seen a character on television or in movies, that actually resembled what death looks like for real.

Anita’s children, played by Ben Chaplin, Tom Cavanagh, Julianne Nicholson, Glenn Howerton and Clea Duvall, experience the struggles that many families go through as a loved one dies. While the hospice nurse Carol played by Michael Hyatt is wonderful, the siblings provide the day-to-day physical care and administer pain medications. There are moving goodbyes and funny scenes that make the movie very watchable. The segment about forging their mother’s signature in order to close her bank accounts before she dies is a reminder that even patients whose death is not sudden, forget to take care of important business issues.

I highly recommend the movie and I highly recommend planning for the “big event” by consulting the Web sites mentioned in the first paragraph. To see the trailer check out:"

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