Monday, November 8, 2010

My Life Without Me

My Life Without Me has been on my To See movie list for a long time. This weekend I finally had the opportunity.

Ann is 23 years old. She lives in a trailer in her mother's back yard with her husband and two young girls. She works nights cleaning the university. After having a fainting spell at home, she discovers that she has ovarian tumors that have spread to her stomach and liver. She is given about 2-3 months to live. One of the first things she does is sit and make a list of all the things she wants to do before she dies.

1. Tell my daughters I love them several times.
2. Find Don a new wife who the girls like.
3. Record birthday messages for the girls for every year until they're 18.
4. Go to Whalebay Beach together and have a big picnic.
5. Smoke and drink as much as I want.
6. Say what I'm thinking.
7. Make love with other men to see what it's like.
8. Make someone fall in love with me.
9. Go and see Dad in Jail.
10. Get false nails. And do something with my hair.

She never tells anyone about her diagnosis. She says she does this as a gift for her husband and children as she doesn't want their last memories of her to be doctor appointments and hospitals. For the same reason she refuses any treatments or further tests. She works to complete her list, while making tapes for all of her loved ones to explain her choices and offer some final words.

She has a unique relationship with her doctor, Dr. Thompson. When he is telling her the bad news about her cancer, he sits beside her in a waiting room chair. He admits to her that he has to sit beside her because he can never look someone in the eye when he tells them they are going to die. In the end, Ann entrusts him with all of the tapes she made for her daughters as she knows he will remember to send them. He agrees to do this as long as Ann will continue to come and see him weekly, saying "Dying is not as easy as it looks, you know, but there's no need for you to have to feel terrible all the time."

The story is often run through Ann's inner monologues, what she is thinking about life and death as she does the grocery shopping, or walks down a busy street. Below is from the beginning of the movie as she is standing out in the rain.

"This is you. Eyes closed, out in the rain. You never thought you'd be doing something like this, you never saw yourself as, I don't know how you'd describe it... As like one of those people who like looking up at the moon, who spend hours gazing at the waves or the sunset or... I guess you know the kind of people I'm talking about. Maybe you don't. Anyway, you kind of like being like this, fighting the cold, feeling the water seep through your shirt and getting through your skin. And the feel of the ground growing soft beneath your feet. And the smell. And the sound of the rain hitting the leaves. All the things they talked about in the books you haven't read. This is you, who would have guessed it? You."

At then end the film, Ann lies in bed watching her neighbor (also named Ann) joyfully interact with her husband and children as the neighbor helps them make dinner. She tells them she is bed suffering from a bad case of anemia.

"You pray that this will be your life without you. You pray that the girls will love this woman who has the same name as you and that your husband will end up loving her too. And that they can live in the house next door and the girls can play dollhouses in the trailer and barely remember their mother who used to sleep during the day and take them on raft rides in bed. You pray that they will have moments of happiness so intense that all their problems will seem insignificant in comparison. You don't know who or what you're praying to but you pray. You don't even regret the life you're not going to have because by then you'll be dead and the dead don't feel anything. Not even regret."

This is a very sad but beautiful movie. (I will admit that I may have shed a couple tears at the end.) As Ann moves through her last days, you really get to feel you know her. It's an interesting perspective on dying young and poor. For what little she has, Ann accomplishes a lot in her last few days and weeks.

7 Responses to “My Life Without Me”

JerseyRN said...
November 8, 2010 at 7:03 PM

Wow. sounds like it will knock you off your chair.


revivalredesign said...
November 9, 2010 at 6:17 AM

Not certain if I am ready to tackle the visuals and voice, but did appreciate you bringing this to the forefront. It will be an excellent dialogue for all of us. Thanks.

Susan W Reynolds


Lori Lu NP said...
November 27, 2010 at 6:01 PM

where can you get this? not available on Netflix, released a long time ago...


Amber Wollesen, MD said...
November 28, 2010 at 7:13 AM

It came out in 2003. I'm surprised Netflix doesn't have it. I actually found my copy at a store that sells used DVDs. That's where I go to find a lot of palliative themed DVDs. Movies with heavy end of life themes seem to get some accolades when they come out but then disappear.


Lori Lu NP said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:53 PM

where can you get this? not available on Netflix, released a long time ago...


JerseyRN said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:53 PM

Wow. sounds like it will knock you off your chair.


revivalredesign said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:53 PM

Not certain if I am ready to tackle the visuals and voice, but did appreciate you bringing this to the forefront. It will be an excellent dialogue for all of us. Thanks.

Susan W Reynolds