“My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me,” Ebert wrote. “What’s more, I’ll be able at last to do what I’ve always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.”
This quote is part of the final blog post of Roger Ebert, the famous film critic who died last week. He announced he would be taking not a leave of absence, but a “leave of presence.” I always admired Roger’s courage and his intent to keep cancer on the radar screen and to give a name and a face to the devastation that can be caused by cancer.
I’ve been thinking a lot about intent. And even as he was making a transition, Roger’s intent was to have purpose and to make a difference.
Many thought Roger was wrong— just as in the case of Dick Clark in Times Square and on national television for the Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve. Many were disturbed by his slurred speech and just not looking like the eternal teenager. Roger was disfigured and that made people uncomfortable. Lots said that his new phrase “a leave of presence” was his way of standing in the limelight.
What I gathered from Roger’s thoughts was that although cancer was real and its side effects a reality, it was not going to define his life. The next day he died.
The thoughtful phrase he used—a leave of presence—has got me thinking about who else is in need of space to take a leave of presence. How are we—the workplace, churches, families, and society—supporting those individuals?
Valora K Starr is director for discipleship.