Grief Dialogues

The True Story Behind The Film “Honoring Choices”

I lost my dad in 1996. From diagnosis to death in four months. He was a kind man. A misunderstood man. A proud man. A loving husband and father who didn’t always understand how best to love. At times he showed his love through impatience and anger. Why? Because he was scared. Scared we girls would hurt ourselves. Scared something horrible would happen to our mom. His fear sometimes paralyzed him and prevented him from doing the right thing —— whatever that may be.

I loved my dad unconditionally. Although he never told me he was proud of me, I knew that he was, and that he, in turn, loved me unconditionally. War damaged my dad. I know he was always a bit of a nervous Nellie but Korea and Vietnam damaged him irrevocably. Yet he had a funny side, a happy side that we saw when he played with his grandchildren, when he took a road trip, when he came for a visit.

In 2019, when Bonnie Bizzell and Honoring Choices PNW commissioned me to write a play that would encourage people to discuss their end-of-life plans, I immediately thought of my father. Why? Because we never talked to him about those plans. He died before we had a chance.

Actually, that’s not true. There was time. Not a lot of time, but there was time. We just chose not to take it. Instead we (okay, I) pretended we had plenty of time. We could beat this diagnosis. He and mom could move to Florida. Enjoy that retirement they always wanted. But he never had the chance. The cancer took him before any of us were ready.

And so, the story behind the play “Honoring Choices” is based on the true story of my dad and his two daughters. The diagnosis is true. The part about wanting to be an astronaut is true. The part where one sister is the loving caretaker and the other sister is the pragmatic, authoritative sister is also true. The rest is what I would have preferred to have happened in our final months with dad.  Months where we laughed, planned, cried, hugged.

This week a life-long dream of mine comes true. My film “Honoring Choices” comes to the big screen as a short film. It will be showcased at the Reimagine: Loss, Life and Love event in Los Angeles.

This film is a true depiction of my motto Out of Grief Comes Art. But what is art? To be fair, there is no one agreed-upon definition of art. Its interpretation varies throughout history and across cultures. I prefer to describe art as an activity that involves a creative process — one that demonstrates emotional power and/or conceptual ideas.

The actors, director, producers, crew members all gave their best selves and talents to this production. They brought my words to the screen and to life. I am honored to represent them and their hard work as we debut the film.
And I know my father would be proud. Very proud indeed.

I would also be proud if I thought even one of you who read these words or saw the film began to prepare our own end-of-life plans. Here’s a good place to start: Five Wishes and The Conversation Project.

If you would like to know more about the film, please visit our site.

1 Comment

  1. Amy says:

    Elizabeth, you are a fantastic writer! So proud of you!!

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