When I went to see the movie, “Saving Private Ryan” on the big screen, I noticed that nearly everyone in the theatre cried at one time or another. Some cried as Mrs. (mama) Ryan was about to receive news of the multiple deaths of her sons. Others cried during the D-Day action scene. All the individual deaths scenes brought sobs and sniffles rippling through the audience. At the end of the long, gut-wrenching film, when the audience is brought into the present day, with old James Ryan revisiting a massive American cemetery in France, he asks his uncomprehending wife to tell him that he was a good man. That’s when tears streamed down my face.
Old James Ryan was asking for confirmation from his wife that he had lived a good life. It was his only way of reassuring himself that he had done what Captain Miller had admonished him to do. As Captain Miller laid dying before young Private Ryan’s eyes, Captain Miller said, “Earn this! Earn this!”
In some ways of course, there could never be any real ‘earning’ of the sacrifice of so many other lives to save his. But in other ways, ‘earning it’ is actually simple, though seriously challenging at times. All he had to do was to live a good life. If he lived a good life, that would have been the best, most complete repayment possible.
I have just been to see a movie with similar underlying messages. The movie was, “Their Finest.” It is set in WWII London among British film-makers struggling to cope with many personal on-going sacrifices including loss of life. It is actually a film with many comic moments, one of which shows an actor, who plays the part of an actor, who doesn’t know how to act. I won’t go into detail about this fine film here. Let it suffice to say that it is mostly well-written and it contains some gems of wisdom for those who survive as loved ones pass.
Just when you most feel like feeling sorry for yourself, when you feel your great sorrow will never pass and perhaps even SHOULD never pass, it would be wise to place a thought in mind and come back to it when you can. “Life is precarious. Don’t waste it!”
Everyone has a right to try to live happily. Unlike a movie script, a book or a blog-posting, we can not write a happy ending for our lives. All lives that end bring sadness and grief to someone. In that sense, life is not at all like art. But a life that has been happily lived, with joys felt, wonders seen, songs heard, loving words and actions given and received – the ending may be very unhappy, but the glorious middle, which takes from page one to the very last page, that wonderful middle should be worth celebrating!
So yes, write your own happy ending! ‘Earn’ whatever it is that others have done for you. How? Live well! Be happy. While you may do so, experience the joy of living to its fullest. Then, you will have ‘earned it.’