“When we have done all the work we were sent to do, we are allowed to shed our body, which imprisons our soul like a cocoon encloses the future butterfly.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
As the world today is continuously overwhelmed with loss, grief, death, I’m writing about two award winning, documentary films that may be helpful, comforting or offer another way of looking at all of this pain . *I will do a post about the second film, Turning Toward the Morning in the next couple of days.
Since 1990, my son, Andy Pickard/IMAGICA PICTURES and I /RITES OF PASSAGE have been making documentary films. Many of them have been on death and dying and these have dealt with the loss of a child-Turning Toward the Morning, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s work with dying children-We’re Almost Home Now, Near Death Experience-As it is in Heaven, Hospice-Walking Us Home and loss of a spouse [husband in this case]-Driving to Utopia. You can read about all of these as well as our other films at Our Films.
WE’RE ALMOST HOME NOW
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her work with dying children
1993 GOLD PLAQUE AWARD INTERCOM-A DIVISION OF THE CHICAGO FILM FESTIVAL
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, MD was a Swiss-American psychiatrist, pioneer in death & dying studies and the author of the groundbreaking book On Death and Dying.
In 1990, when my son and I and a small film crew, traveled to Elisabeth’s farm in Headwaters, Virginia, we expected to do a documentary on her life. Elisabeth however, had other ideas. She wanted the film to be about her work with dying children…. and so We’re Almost Home Now is focused on her work with terminally ill children as well as with her work related to children who died in accidents, were murdered or committed suicide.
Elisabeth’s work with death and dying had begun when she visited Majdanek Concentration Camp shortly after the liberation and where she saw trainloads of baby shoes and drawings of butterflies scratched on the walls of the children’s barracks and so We’re Almost Home Now begins..
Elisabeth emphasized the need to pay attention to the symbolic language of children, not only their words but also their drawings and poetry. As I did my part of the editing on this documentary, I kept a book of poems and drawings of these children who were included in the film.
Eliza Thomas was killed along with three other teenage girls in what came to be known as ‘The Yogurt Shop Murders’ which happened in Austin,TX in 1990. The store was robbed, the girls were shot and then the shop was set on fire.
I interviewed Eliza’s mother, Maria not long after the murders. It was one of the most painful interviews I have ever done however Maria, wanted her daughter to be part of the film, wanted her to be remembered and she gave me some photos of Eliza to copy and a book of poems Eliza had written in the years previous to her death…I think this poem is particularly profound especially the last line..
Elisabeth found in her work with terminally ill children that they were much more accepting and at peace with death than adults….
Children who die young are some of our greatest teachers. We are allowed to die when we have taught what we came to teach and when we have learned what we came to learn.-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
As we worked to finish the film in time for an opening screening which we had planned ahead of time, we still had no title and I was really beginning to worry. We had to have a title.
During that time, I often visited Cliff and Mary Locke, whose daughter Jessica is included in the documentary and one day, not long before the screening, Mary reminded me again of the last words she had spoken to Jessica.
The family had been returning home after church and Jessica was in the backseat. She had been unusually tired that morning and had asked her mother if she could take off her seat belt so she could lie down and sleep. They were close to home when Mary said “Wake up, Honey, we’re almost home now.” and at that moment they were hit head on by a drunk driver. Cliff and Mary survived and Jessica was killed instantly, something she had already understood unconsciously and which can be seen through her drawings.
I knew then then what the title of our film would be…
We’re Almost Home Now has been widely used by nursing schools, bereavement centers, hospices, hospitals, universities etc. It is, I believe, the only full length documentary on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. It is excellent as a training film for hospice volunteers and for organizations such as Stephen Ministers. It has brought peace and comfort to many, many parents who have lost a child and to others who are themselves facing death…