The circle of life can take on many guises. To me, it’s a lot more than a song from "The Lion King." It is nature’s gyre of replenishment. It is the natural order of the universe where energy displaced is energy replaced.
When that energy is not recovered, there is a void whose emptiness challenges nature itself, and upsets our own equilibriums.
I was reminded of this Saturday afternoon, at a memorial service for my friend Karen McCarthy Travis’ mother Carol.
The picturesque John Ford chapel at the Motion Picture Home was the setting, and you could not have asked for a better day. The grounds basked in the early April sun. For those unaware that the property had become a virtual battleground of wills, you would not have known it. It was the picture of serenity this afternoon as we came together to remember a remarkable woman.
At the memorial, we were regaled by stories of Carol’s exploits as a weapons specialist. We laughed at stories that told of her diminutive frame lugging around shoulder fired missiles on set as she described the finer points of Kalashnikov AK-47’s to actors who hung on her every word. A misfire in the hands of a novice can turn their world silent for a couple of days. Her family gave her a fitting tribute in this picturesque setting among her peers.
As special as Carol McCarthy was, what was almost as memorable to me were the words of Carol’s daughter, Karen and her husband Brett, as they spoke glowingly about the superlative care that was given to Carol not only in her final days, but throughout her stay at the Motion Picture Home.
The irony of her message that included Karen and Brett’s reaffirmation of their commitment to keep the doors of the LTC open was not lost on me. Only an hour before I had to circumnavigate my route to visit my mother from where I parked near the chapel. The doors were barred and without an attendant to open them.
It was no wonder that the sounds of the residents were not audible on that sunny afternoon. They can neither get out the doors, and if they did find themselves taking in the air, they are almost barred completely from getting back in.
How can we allow this to happen?
As we move from irony to the implied comparison of the metaphor that these barred doors symbolized to me, it was evident that those that leave do not return. Either by God’s will or Katzenberg’s — when you are out of the system you are out of the system. Those that felt pressured to leave who want to come back are denied this right.
How can we allow this to happen?
The circle of life — truncated. The natural order — restricted. The notion of "taking care of our own" — aborted.
The emptiness that I felt was reminiscent of the feelings that pervaded my home shortly after the death of our Golden Retriever, Dustin. The house was not the same. It was off-kilter. There was an emotional hole where Dustin would sit at my feet while I worked, that at times I thought would swallow me up.
Calls to friends and business associates would end abruptly when I would start to choke up. The physical bond was broken but the emotional one was still there.
The only way to bring back balance was to bring in another dog, which we did. We worked through our guilt of replacing our dog and was rewarded with a new joy.
The circle of life.
With Carol now gone, the caregivers who have so much to give, have one less to give it to. Once the mattress is rolled up and the bed stands silently, there will be nobody to refresh the room with their presence — no new family photos, no stuffed animals, no cards wishing well and congratulating on finding a new home.
This doesn’t have to be.
The nursing home that serves the motion picture and television industry does not have to wither. The potential for revenue is in the range of $24 million per year. The potential to fill beds is evidenced by the fact that every other facility like the Motion Picture Home is filled to the rafters.
The reality of the situation is that the our nursing home has the potential to be a revenue generating virtual Disneyland for the elderly who have literally built an industry that can afford this kind of humane payback.
The bustling community of elders that was evident when Carol McCarthy first got onto the prestigious waiting list (yes, there was a long waiting list to get in) can be simply returned on short notice, if we choose to demand it.
If we all choose to demand it, it will return.
At the podium, surrounded by flowers, in a small chapel on the property that was Carol McCarthy’s home, Karen’s voice cracked with emotion. She explained that her mother’s life was extended by at least 1-1/2 years thanks to the care she got at the Motion Picture Home.
Who are we to break the circle of life at such an institution that gives such incredible care for that life? Who are we as an industry to accept the words of those whose purpose is to close a facility that saves lives while providing a home for those final years?
Are we going to let this happen on our watch? Doing nothing is enabling the MPTF to drive a stake into the heart of motion picture and television healthcare. Stand with me to fight against this injustice to the elderly.