Though Nora Ephron is best known for her creative work on memorable movies both light and serious -- think “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Silkwood” -- in many of her writings, especially her essays, she was a mirror of the feminist generation’s lives. Through her, women learned not to feel so alone when it came to everything from the sad divorces of earlier years to feeling bad about their age-revealing necks and diminishing memories.
So when Ephron died Tuesday at the age of 71, it was both a shock and a reminder that baby boomers needn’t feel so shocked by death. It’s one of the next steps in the logical progressions of their -- our -- lives. Who would have an appreciative laugh with us about the discomforts of old age?
But what added to the feeling of loss was the very fact that we were so taken unawares: that we never saw Ephron’s death in the offing. Here was a woman who had been willing to share, in her always conversational and often side-splittingly funny way, the pain and embarrassment of moments that most women keep hidden. But not her illness; not her approach toward death.
It’s completely understandable, of course. But I can’t help thinking that Ephron’s fans might also have benefited from her baldly honest, and perhaps even slyly witty, assessment of terminal illness and mortality. It’s a conversation that needs to be had more often. Unless she left posthumous musings -- which wouldn’t surprise her readers at all -- Ephron apparently didn’t want, or perhaps wasn’t in a position, to have that conversation. We’re left to do it ourselves.