I certainly didn't expect to see Roger Ebert up and about at his own funeral.
Of course, this was only in a dream. It occurred last night, most likely triggered by having watched an Ebert retrospective on local PBS station WILL-TV. A series of local interviews with the late film critic, interspersed with pledge breaks, left me feeling bittersweet. It was nice to see and hear Ebert in his prime, holding court about film, but then it made me miss him even more.
Then there was the dream.
Things began rather suddenly -- as they so often do in dreams -- at the approach to Ebert's funeral. Ashley & I were walking, side-by-side, on a concrete road leading up to a rather nondescript beige building sitting at the edge of a town. Throngs of people were gathered in front of the building, however, much to my surprise, they were not solemn and silent, but whooping and hollering with glee. As we got closer, it became evident they were focused on one person in-particular.
"What's going on?" I whispered to Ashley.
"It's Ebert," he replied. "They're enjoying him while he's back."
"Back?" I asked, befuddled. "What do you mean?"
"You know... they've brought him back for his funeral, so he can say goodbye, and we can all appreciate him one last time. Look! There's Chaz next to him."
Ashley pointed and, sure enough, there was the beautiful Chaz Ebert, Roger's wife, standing next to him. He was indeed there, not in a coffin, but standing, gesturing, seemingly smiling, with Chaz beaming at his side. They moved about the crowd, with Ebert sometimes waving at people, sometimes shaking their hands and, with a few, providing warm hugs.
I needed further explanation, so Ashley provided it. Apparently, medical scientists and funeral directors had developed a way to re-animate the dead, only for a short time, and within a certain window after their passing, so that they may be present for their own funeral. This had been done with Ebert. Yes, he'd died, but now he was back, briefly.
"It won't last long," Ashley remarked, "only about 10-12 hours. Then he'll stop and be dead again. This time, for good." As he spoke the words, Ebert took Chaz's hand, and then a friend's, and began skipping into the building, the crowd following them, the funeral service about to begin.
"But, I don't understand. He died! The cancer, or whatever it was, killed him. How can they bring him back."
Ashley shook his head. "I don't know the details. It just works. Isn't it great?"
Yes, I thought, it is great. Ghoulish, too.
These thoughts went through my head all day, long after I'd awakened from the dream. The bizarre realities that emerge while we're asleep are often unlikely to occur in life but, I pondered, what if they did? What if the dead did come back, for just a brief time, and were happy, and we could say our proper goodbyes?
Of course, I thought of my dad. Others will have their own loved ones who come to mind. I dreamt of Ebert, probably because of the local PBS special. Regardless, it's both a wonderful and a frightening concept. The dead should stay dead, no? That is the way of things. And yet...
It was good to see Ebert again.