Light Entertainment and Heavy Thoughts

I went to lunch and the movies with friends today. Good food, good people, and a good movie — Downton Abbey. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the outing and admired the film as a period piece, I must confess I am a bit too much of an egalitarian to truly appreciate the nuances of the film.

I do realize the movie portrays the end days of an outdated class system, with everyone knowing their place, ingratiating themselves with those who rank above them and condescending to those below: the lowest servants giving way to the higher servants, the lowborn currying favor with the highborn, the highborn doing the bidding of the highest in the land.

There was no merit in any of the folk portrayed in the movie — the highborn were highborn for the simple reason they were highborn or married someone of the upper classes. They didn’t earn their exalted status. The lowborn, though perhaps good at their jobs, were actually no better — adopting, as well as they could considering their positions, the petty ways of those they served.

Admittedly, the movie is geared for lovers of the series, and I’d only seen a couple of episodes somewhere along the line. (Don’t know where because although I do have a television or two, I don’t prescribe to any television programming.) The plot was thin, a mere veneer, probably because the movie is more a showcase for the characters people had come to know and love.

Despite the hype of having to know who the characters are to understand the movie, it wasn’t difficult to figure out what was going on. Every character wanted something. Every character believed they are special. The idle rich believed they deserve their good fortune. The lowborn believed they are somehow enriched by serving these folks.

Even worse, for me, none of the characters were admirable or even charming. In fact, most were appalling. Well, except for Maggie Smith, whose appallingness was part of her charm

If I’m really honest, what we have in the USA today is rather a reflection of that same world, though we all believe we are as good as those who think they are better than we are, and that with a bit of luck, the riches will even out. (Which is why it is so hard to get people to vote for special taxes for the richest folk — most of us believe that one day we will be rich and so to tax the rich is to tax our future selves; the rest of us are afraid that one day we will be bag ladies.)

Still, such a world as depicted in the movie seems utterly wrong and phony to these eyes. Maybe it would even have seemed phony back in those days — it’s hard for me to believe that people entrenched in the system truly believed that the aristocracy was better than they were and so deserved their adulation and servility.

In the end, this is what makes Downton Abbey a good movie: a couple of hours of light entertainment, followed by a couple of hours of heavy thought.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

In the Company of Married Women

I had lunch with some friends today, which would have been nice though not particularly significant if it weren’t that all the women were married. Since the death of my life mate/soul mate, most of my friends have been my fellow bereft — my sisters in sorrow — but gradually I’ve been meeting women who are still coupled. Today was the first time I found myself in the company of only married women.

I was actually okay — no tears — but it did make me sad to listen to these women talk about their husbands’ irritating qualities. Although I sympathized, I wanted to cry out to them to treasure every momenluncht, even the most exasperating incidences, because in the end, every moment spent with the person you love (or once loved) is a golden moment.

But I kept my mouth shut. Anything I said — even a gentle request to give their husbands an extra hug that night — would have seemed as if I were chastising them, and if my words didn’t strike such a note, I would still have turned the focus of the conversation from them and their comfortable confidences to me and my uncomfortable realities. Besides, until you have lost your mate, you simply cannot understand how precious every moment is. You’re caught up in the daily struggle to maintain your autonomy in the face of someone else’s wishes, the struggle to get all of the day’s chores finished, the struggle to find a harmonious balance between aging bodies and youthful spirits. You don’t have the energy to focus on distant tragedy.

So, I’m telling you what I would have liked to say to them. Smile at your mate instead of ignoring or arguing with him. Give him an extra hug and maybe a kiss. Thank whatever powers you believe in that no matter how irritating he might be, you have him for one more day. This is an incredible gift I am giving you — a memory to treasure if ever you should become one of us bereft.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.