Film Review: Beaches (1988) by Garry Marshall

Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey star in a film about the arch of a friendship through love, jealously and illness
Beaches poster, Bette Midler poster, Beach movie, Beaches 1988, Barbara Hershey, Barbara Hershey Beaches

Credit: Film.com

Beaches is Garry Marshall’s 1988 adaptation of Iris Rainer Dart’s novel of the tumultuous but unbreakable friendship between C.C. Bloom (Bette Midler) and Hillary Whitney (Barbara Hershey). While the film has its flaws, Beaches is an important part of the Marshall’s 80s-oeuvre for one reason: it’s concerned with the friendship between two women. In an industry where so many plot lines resort to the romantic, sweep-in-on-the-white-horse finally, Beaches makes the bold statement that a story about a woman’s life can be fascinating without having to depend on a man. The bond that is shared between C.C. and Hillary through adolescence, work, love and ultimately death is one that isn’t seen enough in cinema.

Can’t it be just as important to show viewers the importance of a female friendship that tries not to orbit around a man’s acceptance?

We meet C.C. and Hillary at 11 years old. Hershey’s Hillary comes from a waspy Bay Area family that has her fated to become a lawyer. Midler’s C.C. is an aspiring, crass-mouthed singer and performer from New York. The two collide on a beach in Atlantic City, and the kismet of friendship is inescapable. They write cross-country letters to one another for years, growing closer and closer despite distance and social class. When they finally live together in New York, they both face important life lessons. C.C. learns that to really let someone in you have to stop putting on a show, while Hillary realizes she must lose the comfort of her family’s wealth and status to pursue the life of social justice she’s really interested in. Men do play an important role in the plot line, but there’s always an understanding that Beaches’ strongest love story is the one between C.C. and Hillary. Sure, it’s inspiring to see a woman fight for a romantic relationship she believes in – and it’s not as if these plot lines should be pushed to the wayside. But who’s to say they always take precedence in the trajectory of a life? Can’t it be just as important to show viewers the importance of a female friendship that tries not to orbit around a man’s acceptance?

Beaches poster, Bette Midler poster, Beach movie, Beaches 1988, Barbara Hershey, Barbara Hershey Beaches

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Beaches’ acting can often wax kitsch – especially when it comes to Hershey’s doe-eyed delivery. And it doesn’t help that we’re immersed in an Aqua Net cloud of 1980s Broadway. Midler becomes the film’s saving grace—her bite, humor and sensitivity bring Beaches back down to earth while making the viewer feel like they have an honest friend in her character.

Death and dying become not only the friends’ final obstacle but their final adventure.

Towards the film’s end, Hillary is diagnosed with potentially fatal cardiomyopathy. In order to live, she explains to C.C. that she needs a heart transplant matching her rare tissue type. The two women have been through a lot at this point, especially with Hillary having left her husband and raised a child as a single parent. Death and dying become not only the friends’ final obstacle but their final adventure.

Beaches poster, Bette Midler poster, Beach movie, Beaches 1988, Barbara Hershey, Barbara Hershey Beaches

Credit: chacha.com

To see the topic of terminal illness and death in the context of a movie about friendship is refreshing. And it’s just as important to know that while Beaches ends in death, it spends far more time celebrating life. Some of us may not have family members to be with us as we near our dying experience, and Marshall’s story is a reminder for us to cultivate the relationships that will carry us through to the end. Those are the relationships that bring us laughter, growth and the courage to face the end of life.

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Death in the Modern Age

Life is rarely as glamorous as we would hope, but this seldom matters to the family and friends who survive us
Credit: www.lunarbaboon.com

Credit: www.lunarbaboon.com

Read more “Laughter is Medicine” posts here.

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The History Behind Firing Guns at Military Funerals

An exploration of the history behind firing guns and cannons to honor service members, veterans and diplomats at military funerals
military

Credit: Wikipedia

Even for those who have never personally attended a military funeral, most Americans are familiar with the traditional customs that are practiced during the ceremony. The image of booming shots echoing in the calm of a grave site after a particularly action-packed battle scene are saturated in all forms of American media. As a country, it seems, we have an obsession with remembering all of our heroes, fictional or otherwise. And perhaps the most iconic way that our heroes are honored at a military funeral is by firing guns at the grave site. But where does this tradition come from and what does it mean? Although the symbolism may be lost on civilians who are so familiar with this iconic practice, the history behind this tradition is rooted in antiquity.

 Perhaps the most iconic way that our heroes are honored at a military funeral is by firing guns at the grave site.

The practice of incorporating weaponry as a funeral custom for honoring heroes dates far before the invention of gunpowder and it has been a culturally universal practice that predates most forms of record keeping.  It’s a metaphor, as Augustus Waters would say, where you keep the killing thing close, but “you don’t give it the power to kill.” And in many cultures, this has been the tradition among ancient tribes that would bring spears to funerals as well. In all of these cases, with spears brought to funerals with the pointed end facing the dirt, or in modern times as we fire shots off into the distance, the idea is that with the firing of the weapon, or the disarming of the spear, we are honoring a hero and a warrior by purposefully, temporarily disarming a weapon that may have been their downfall.

The practice of incorporating weaponry as a funeral custom for honoring heroes dates far before the invention of gunpowder.

salute

Credit: Wikipedia

In August of 1875, the 21 gun salute was recognized by the British and American people as an international practice for military funerals. While it is a common misconception that the salute calls for 21 shots to be fired, in actuality, this was originally because there were 21 states in the union at the time the salute was officially recognized in America. Today, this salute is reserved for honoring the flag or for honoring political dignitaries both alive and dead.

The idea is that with the firing of the weapon, or the disarming of the spear, we are honoring a hero and a warrior by purposefully, temporarily disarming a weapon that may have been their downfall.

Although the practice that most people are familiar with today is that of the 21 gun salute, this practice is often mistaken for the much more common practice of firing three rifle volleys over the grave of the person being honored. That practice has its own different history. Firstly, the firing of volleys is a much more common practice used for honoring any veteran, as opposed to a more highly decorated war hero or dignitary. This would be the equivalent of slaughtering a goat for a standard Xhosa funeral feast, as opposed to slaughtering an ox and a lion. Historically, the firing of volleys would take place on a battlefield to indicate that the dead had been cleared from the field and were now taken care of.

Today, the volleys are used to honor veterans who die in active duty, honorably discharged veterans and military retirees in general. Being a veteran is for life, and when the time comes for planning a funeral for a veteran, it’s important to remember that most people who have served can become a part of this ancient tradition. Contacting your local V.A. to find out more about planning a military funeral is the perfect place to start.

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Hospitals on the Verge of Paying Massive Fines from Medicare for Their Mistakes

Medicare is moving in the right direction with a plan to give big fines to hospitals with the highest rates of potentially fatal infections and avoidable injuries
Dorothea Handron, Medicare, Hospital Penalty Fines,

Credit: npr.org

Although the amount of potentially fatal infections and avoidable injuries that happen in hospitals is slowly decreasing, Medicare will soon be charging massive fines to around 750 hospitals with the highest rates of both. The estimated total for these fines will be about $330 million for just one year. The decrease in infections has not been fast enough yet to meet the goals set by federal health officials. According to the government, just two short years ago, the rate of patients in hospitals who suffered from complications that could possibly have been avoided was one in eight.

These fines will hopefully steer hospitals towards decreasing those high rates of potentially unavoidable infections and injuries even further. As Dr. Clifford McDonald, who is a senior adviser for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these new fines will allow the worst hospitals slated to receive them to “still have a lot of room to move in a positive direction.”

So when exactly will these fines start kicking in? For the hospitals with the worst rates, October will be the month that they will start to lose one percent of all Medicare payments for a period of one year. Based on federal analysis, the total amount so far is 761 hospitals. The list could change, however, by the end of the year because the span of the government’s observations on hospitals’ performances will extend to a longer period.

This program is called the Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction program and it will work in conjunction with two other programs created when the health care law was passed in 2010. One of these programs penalizes hospitals with high readmission rates and the other will either give bonuses or penalties to hospitals based on several quality measures. The combination of these three programs places hospitals at risk of losing up to 5.4 percent of what Medicare pays them.

Water Lily symbolizing hope

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The Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction program will focus on three areas within the first year of its implementation—1) frequency of bloodstream infections from catheters inserted through veins, 2) frequency of urine infections from catheters inserted in bladders and, finally, 3) an array of avoidable health problems such as bedsores, blood clots and the like. 54 percent of the major teaching hospitals in the U.S. and eight states, along with Washington D.C., in particular, make up more than one third of the recipients for these initial penalties. Those eight states are: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

These precautionary steps will hopefully push hospitals to seriously reevaluate their procedures in resolving and ultimately fully preventing these grave and potentially fatal errors from happening. As Lisa McGiffert, Consumers’ Union’s director of the patient safety program says, “With infections, we are moving in the right direction. But I would not say we are anywhere near where we need to be.”

What do you think about these forthcoming penalties for hospitals? We look forward to your comments below.

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”If death is this brilliant slide, this high, fine music felt as pure vibration, this plunging float in wind and silence, it’s not so bad.”

- Jayne Anne Phillips
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Check out more from “A Rite of Passage” here.

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A Supported Home Funeral

Honoring my husband’s wishes and my family’s goodbye

This is Jeanne’s story, as told by Angela Borrello. Our “Opening Our Hearts” stories are based on people’s real-life experiences with loss. By sharing these experiences publicly, we hope to help our readers feel less alone in their experience of grief and, ultimately, to aid them in their healing processes. In this post, we tell the story of a woman who lost her husband to a brain tumor.

Al Staehli portrate smallWhen my husband’s sister died, it was a wake up call. We realized that we had very little in place for our end-of-life arrangements. This prompted my husband Alfred and I to sign up for a membership with the Oregon Memorial Association. Through this association, we paid a $10 lifetime membership fee and filed away our wishes for what we would like carried out upon our deaths. Then we returned home, stashed the membership card away and promptly forgot that it even existed.

We realized that we had very little in place for our end-of-life arrangements.

Nearly fifty years later, when my husband was dying of a brain tumor, I remembered the membership. To my surprise, when I called the number on the card, someone picked up. The woman I spoke with informed me that the association had moved locations, and now went by the name of the Funeral Consumers Alliance,however, she assured me that the files had been kept. When I called the new number, I was happy to find that she was right. The files had survived the years and were still intact. The man I spoke with assured me that when Alfred died, all I needed was to call, and they would carry out Alfred’s wishes exactly as he had written in the file.

DB chalk by grand-daughter age 6

Evelyn sat and listened as she colored on some paper and soon we noticed that she was sketching a picture of her grandfather sitting in front of her.

This was particularly helpful to me because due to the nature of Alfred’s tumor, he wasn’t able to participate in the conversation about his end-of-life care—never mind the type of funeral he would like. Furthermore, during the last few months of his life, I wasn’t even entertaining the thought of funeral preparations as I was still in denial that his life was coming to an end. I was completely preoccupied with finding ways to bring Alfred back to health. Even as the doctors told me the best they could do was extend his life for a few more months, I continued to search for a way to cure his tumor. Looking back, my only regret is that I spent our last days in such denial. I wish I could have been more present with him and the time we still had together.

We wanted to find something special, something that he not only would have liked to wear, but that also meant something.

When Alfred’s time did finally come, I called the number again and true to their word the association began setting in motion the instructions in the file. However, before anyone came to take Alfred’s body, my son demanded that we dress him properly, saying something along the lines of, “My dad’s not going out of here in his pajamas.” And so my son and daughter and I began looking for something to dress him in. We wanted to find something special, something that he not only would have liked to wear, but that also meant something. Together we settled on a sweater that fulfilled both those things. I had bought it for him during a wonderful evening we shared together just before the news of his tumor took hold of our lives. It was a beautiful night, and I remember it as one of the last moments we shared before the tumor truly took over.

She was sketching a picture of her grandfather.

staehli2004At the time, we had never really heard of a home funeral, however, after deciding on the sweater it began to turn into just that. Before we could dress Alfred, it became clear that we needed to wash his body. And so together, my son and daughter and I began to bathe Alfred one last time. It was healing to share that experience with each another and as we prepared Alfred for his departure, we found ourselves laughing and crying, reminiscing about his life. After he was dressed and ready, my son decided to bring his six-year-old daughter Evelyn home to join us. By this time, Alfred was fully clothed and we were sitting around him sharing stories about his life. Evelyn sat and listened as she colored on some paper and soon we noticed that she was sketching a picture of her grandfather sitting in front of her.

Although none of the events that took place were planned, that afternoon truly transformed Alfred’s death for me. It was a gift to know that his wishes would be carried out through the Funeral Consumers Alliance, and to honor Alfred in our own way. That afternoon we spent as a family turned what could have been a terrible memory of the day my husband died into a beautiful and cathartic final goodbye.

Were you touched by this story? Read more Opening Our Hearts stories here.

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