(I hope you will forgive me this. I am not generally in the habit of writing letters to dead people. It feels just a bit awkward inside my head. But I need to tell you this, more for my sake than yours, I think.)
You probably don’t remember me. It was at a competition for student films. I was covering the event for my school newspaper. At one point, you rushed past me, almost knocking me over, and made a rather irritated noise at the shy college student who was preventing you from getting from A to B as quickly as possible. In that moment, I filed you away under “pompous self-important jackass” and went on with my life.
It is perhaps one of my shortcomings that I rarely revisit an initial negative impression I get of somebody. It takes something truly spectacular for me to change my mind in that regard. In your case, Mr. Ebert, the spectacular happened. You wrote an article about your medical condition and how you refused to hide yourself away just to make other people more comfortable.
I read that article. And it inspired me. It told me I was not alone in this whole visible disability thing. That somebody else understood. That I did not have to take shit from anybody just to make them feel better. But more than that, it told me that I was more than just my disability. You never backed down. You never gave up. You never quit. You just kept on doing what you loved — writing about your passion for films.
My one regret is that I had not the courage to tell you this before your death. In some ways, for as far as I have come in my life, that shy college student still remains. But I can say that were it not for you, I might not have worked up the courage to start this blog. To talk about my journey, just as you talked about yours.
May I be half as eloquent, passionate, and graceful as you.
May you be blessed and free from pain now, Mr. Ebert. And yes, I will save the aisle seat for you.