Late yesterday afternoon, someone posted on Tumblr that Nora Ephron may have died based on a random tweet from a newspaper columnist about her funeral. This same Tumblr account later posted that Nora Ephron’s agent or editor or representative of some kind denied this and claimed that Nora Ephron was still alive. Soon after this, actual news sources reported that she was very very sick and was not expected to last the night. And by sometime yesterday evening, it was officially reported that Nora Ephron had died from her bout with leukemia. You probably already know this: either because you saw her obituary on the front page of the New York Times website, or because every single person on your Twitter feed was writing about it last night. Probably the latter. Dane Cook tweeted about it (right before tweeting about how bad he wanted to take a girl from behind over a “dimensional portal”?) Jonah Hill tweeted about it. See also: Mario Batali. Everyone was joining in. Sometimes they would talk about their first experience with the work of Nora Ephron. Sometimes they would mention her status as an important role model and feminist. And of course there is the old Twitter standby of just posting “R.I.P. [Insert Name].” Classic. Whatever people posted, it is clear once again that Twitter is just the way we die now. But it doesn’t really have to be, does it? I sure hope not, because it’s the worst.
The Internet in general is just a terrible place for eulogizing. You know how newspaper obituary columns work for people of note, right? When a “famous” or “important” person crosses a certain age or health threshold, their obituary is researched, written, and carefully edited before being put away on file to be used in the case of that person’s death. If/when someone dies, any new stories or details that have accrued in the remaining days, weeks, months, years of their life can be woven into a carefully and thoughtfully constructed piece that does, despite Joan Rivers’s best protestations, come at least close to honoring their lives and providing deserved recognition for their achievements. Because there is time. As there should be. Honoring a life takes time. Here is an excerpt from The Daily What’s eulogy of Nora Ephron, published last night:
After writing the script for When Harry Met Sally, and writing/directing You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle, it was her turn to call the shots.
For the last six years Ephron struggled with myelodysplasia, a blood disorder, of which recently made her extremely ill. She passed away Tuesday in a New York hospital.
What on Earth? A cursory glance at an IMDB page followed by a hollow cliche of empowerment that leads to nothing but the hospital and death? Garbage. Absolute garbage! How about just linking to an actual obituary, or even better: KEEPING YOUR MOUTH SHUT. In what way is this at all valuable to the world, all of this CHATTER? End it. And when I point a blog finger at The Daily What you know there are four blog fingers pointing right back at blogs. Everyone is guilty of this. We are all talking too much all the time all day long every single day we can barely even take a sip of water because how would we swallow it our mouths are too busy expectorating nonsense and even if they weren’t our fingers are too busy typing on our phones. “Oh Gabe, you sound like an old man. And whose business is it of yours how people choose to react to and deal with the news of death?” Well, I am an old man. And it’s my business as soon as everyone makes it my business. That’s the whole point of Twitter and the Internet in the first place isn’t it? To aggressively ensure that your business becomes everybody else’s business. And for the most part this psychic and verbal clutter is manageable. Horrible and unnecessary and a detriment to the world but manageable. But when it comes to the death of a complete stranger it seems straight up UNTOWARD.
Example: one time, Natasha Richardson died. Now, as opposed to Nora Ephron, Natasha Richardson did not pave the way for female humorists or write famous romantic comedies that we still reference over tongue sandwiches at Katz’s Delicatessan to this very day. She did not give birth to the Nancy Meyers-ification of modern middle aged love or write champagne-in-cheek paeans to the Upper West Side. She was not a role model, and she might not have even been a feminist. We’ll never know. She was an actress and she had a famous husband and her death was a genuine tragedy because it came from an accident. (I am not in any way trying to diminish the impact of Nora Ephron’s death on her friends and family or to say that it was somehow not upsetting or even “cruel” for them, but ultimately people do get sick and die, Nora Ephron herself even has some choice quotes about this that have been making the rounds, and somehow a person following in this natural cycle of life, however difficult and possibly even prematurely, it is a little different than an unexpectedly fatal fluke skiing accident on a holiday vacation. In my stupid opinion. Although not even, because fatal fluke skiing accidents are part of it too. So never mind.) That’s not even the point that I want to make. Death is death and death is always hard for someone. The point that I want to make is that not a single person or website was ever talking about the things that Natasha Richardson was doing in life and then she died and every person and website was talking about her. Well, why? I still don’t understand. Why does EVERYONE have to weigh in? I wrote about this question and everyone got very mad at me. Perhaps fairly! Almost certainly fairly. The overall reaction everyone had to my thoughts on the subject were that I should have just kept my mouth shut. That’s true. But you know who else should have just kept their mouths shut? EVERYONE.
You guys, what if when someone died, especially someone whose work we actually cared about, what if we joined together in what used to be called back in the Old World, a MOMENT OF SILENCE. That used to be the universal symbol of showing respect for the dark and foreboding mystery of death, and for honoring our place and the deceased’s place and the yet to be born’s place in that circle. A moment of silence can be solemn, but you can also fill it with whatever’s in your head. The whole point of a moment of silence is that you are allowed within your own private moment to think and experience and remember whatever you want. That’s your business. But out of respect for the people who actually did know and care and love the person, you keep it to yourself.
There’s no open mic ceremony at a funeral. For a reason.
You should read the New York Times‘s obituary of Nora Ephron. Or even better, you should just go read her books and essays and watch her movies. Some of them are really good and some of them kind of stink. Because she was a human being. But one thing you don’t need to do is weigh in on it. I promise you have nothing to say.
Boy oh boy. I swear these days it seems like the only thing that scares people more than death is two fucking seconds of quiet. #LeastFAV