Friday, October 12, 2012

Life is Beautiful

“Life is Beautiful” directed by and starring Roberto Benigni is the story of a devoted father and his son who end up in a Nazi concentration camp.  In an attempt to hold his family together and help his son survive the horrors of the camp, the father imagines that the Holocaust is a game and that the grand prize for winning is a tank.  At the time the movie came out I didn't have any children, but just watching the previews and imagining what the father had to go through, the pretending and the elaborate charades, it was unbearable to watch, let alone consider being in that position myself.  And the title?  I knew what it was suggesting but I just couldn't get there at the time.  I love movies and will watch most anything across all genres.  I've never seen this movie and I probably never will.  At first I just didn't want to "go there" but now, it's a moot point.  

See now, I get it.  Life is beautiful.  Although I haven't been through anything nearly as horrific as the Holocaust I know what it is to want to protect your children.  Protect them from seeing their young, strong, capable father slowly wasting away in front of them.  Shield them from the realities of depression and cancer and chemotherapy and grief that encroached on our lives and their childhood.  And yet.  To deprive them of these basic truths of their lives would have been to deprive them of all the beauty that is life.  I don't need to see the movie because I've lived that story.  I don't need to watch it unfold on screen and ask myself "what would I do in a similar position?"  I was refined in the crucible of Phil's unrelenting illness and death.

I am a mother and although my first instinct will always be to protect my children, I also take into consideration what is ultimately best for them.  When a teachable moment comes along I seize it, because in their lives, as in mine, it is what it is.  With Phil's cancer, we were all dealt a shitty hand, he more than anymore.  But I tell you, the way that man played his hand was inspiring to watch and be a part of.  I am changed forever.  If I'd shielded Bennett and Olivia from that by pretending or sugar-coating it, it would have diminished what he was teaching them in the face of his greatest challenge and what I believe will be some of their greatest life lessons going forward.  Phil was showing them that life is beautiful and worth fighting and suffering greatly for.  He was showing them that love is beautiful, that family matters, friends matter, faith matters.  He taught them how to suffer with dignity and die well.  Phil lived a life of love and was a good father to his children to the very end.

Thank you Phil, you are beyond beautiful.