I love ‘what if’ questions. They make me think of all sorts of things. I don’t play them in my head with any sort of regret, just sort of a curious glimpse into a life that was, a life that could be.
The other day, a friend asked me – “If you could marry any movie star, who would that be?” I didn’t hesitate – Audrey Hepburn. It didn’t matter to me that she was no longer alive. Sure I could go with my contemporary favourites like Jennifer Aniston (who I probably will marry), Penelope Cruz, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel or stars from my younger days like (pre-plastic face) Meg Ryan, Michelle Pfeiffer and Julia Roberts. However, to me nobody exemplified grace and beauty like Audrey, from Roman Holiday and Sabrina to My Fair Lady, Charade and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, she was mesmerizing.
Whenever I think of Audrey Hepburn these days, I think of my aunt. She passed away on 7 April 2013 in India after she and my uncle had spent the previous few months in the Bay Area with their daughter and her family. Two days prior to her death, half a world away in the Bay Area, her grand-daughter was born. And though they never met, I like to think they knew one another. When one life ends, another begins.
On 8 April 2013 in Chicago at 9:45 AM, I wrote “I was asleep on the couch last night, not soundly. It was raining terribly all through the night and early morning, like some sort of impending doom upon the world. And I woke up with my heart so heavy I just could not get out of bed, er the couch. Physically unable. It was surreal. It was painful. With every ounce of will, I woke. I thought about death. I thought of my uncle that passed away when I was eighteen years old, leaving behind his young wife and kids six to twelve, to this day not just my cousins, but among my best friends, with families of their own. I thought of my friend Chris who passed away when we were but 21. I thought of my friend Steve whose wife passed away a few years ago to cancer, leaving behind very young kids; a reminder to Steve who had lost his mother too, when we had met in grade school. I’ve been thinking also about my friends from high school, Kurt and Andy, whose mother died last night just a few hours after my aunt.
It’s been Tessieauntie that I’ve been thinking of mostly all this day. We are at an age when the mortality of our parents is a very real thing. And so it makes me think of my own parents, my cousins’ parents, and my friends’ parents; and I feel so very sad with impending loss, the kind that is such a huge weight upon one’s heart that you cannot even get up. Yet, while I think about death, I also think about life. I think about the courageous people in my life that survived and are surviving (cancer). That also spurs me to appreciate every second I do spend with them; and every second that I do not, I long for those times that I can. Time waits for no one. However, I will never let time get in the way of spending time with the people that I love, telling the people I love, that I love them.”
That night was restless; the next day, I came into the office listless. That evening, I could not sleep. At 2:45 AM, 9 April 2013, I wrote. “I think I was meant to be restless tonight, unable to sleep not wanting to think. What do I do during those times I feel sad? I paint. I read. I write. I listen to music. I watch movies, one that will transport me away to another time and place. I thought tonight I would visit Audrey Hepburn, in How to Steal a Million. She’s my favourite actress of all-time, a timeless beauty, a selfless humanitarian, in another life someone I would fall in love with instantly. I was destined to watch her biography tonight, the end of which were quotes about her that very well could have reminded me of my aunt.
“She was the living embodiment of the best of the human heart, of the human mind, and soul. And I think people drew sustenance from that.” – Harry Belafonte of Audrey Hepburn
“She was the best that we could possibly be. She was perfectly charming, and perfectly loving. She was a dream. And she was the dream you remember when you wake up smiling.” – Richard Dreyfuss of Audrey Hepburn
After the movie, I was destined to watch her biography tonight, the end of which was a quote from her as she was reading a book onscreen to help me find solace in the loss of my loved one. I’m wide awake now, but have a feeling I may be able to fall asleep, if nothing else to tell my aunt in another time and place that I miss her.
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. As long as this exists and it certainly always will, I know that there will always be comfort for every sorrow. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” – Audrey Hepburn (watch the last two minutes of the last video at the bottom of this post if you want to hear these words from Audrey herself)
It’s during our darkest days that the people in our lives that we love truly shine. My dear friend Shelley, knowing what I was going through in mourning of my aunt passing away, texted me the following morning.
“Didn’t want to wake you, but wanted to make sure you woke in the morning with a thought I hope brings you a little light… The loss of life is never a thing to fear unless it’s a life not lived and lost. Any life well lived isn’t lost even when it finds its end. Your aunt and your friend’s mom surely lived well 🙂 In a way loss is a gift – it means they had something to give that will be missed. A small consolation and cruel irony, but a truth I believe. It’s in loss, we learn to live. Don’t despair my friend. Grieve. Then live better with the people gifted to live with you.”
Kind and perfect words from a dear friend, one that I look to whenever I think about those that I have loved that I have lost. Even if one of those people was a movie star I had never in my life met.
P.S. Oh by the way, if you don’t recognize the quote, it has nothing to do with Audrey Hepburn, but a line from my favourite comedy of all time – you need to watch Anchorman as often as I have, which as of this writing is over fifty times, that being a conservative guess.
- Quote: Audrey Hepburn on Beauty (kqduane.com)
- Friday Five: Audrey Hepburn Movies (breakfastinlimbo.wordpress.com)
- The Science of Hepburning (classicandcrippled.wordpress.com)
- Audrey Hepburn IMDB
- Audrey Hepburn Movie List
- Audrey Hepburn Biography, Part 1
- Audrey Hepburn Biography, Part 2
- Audrey Hepburn Biography, Part 3
- Audrey Hepburn Biography, Part 4
- Audrey Hepburn Biography, Part 5