Transforming Loss: Part 2

I left off yesterday’s post in the coney island after our morning of filming in the church. Today’s post picks up where we left off.

After we finished our lunch, we headed back to our house. This was going to be the hard part: the interview. The day had grown significantly warmer as we had been filming at the church, like into the 90s warmer. We arrived at our house and the crew immediately began transforming our living room into a movie set. They set up lights and reflectors to bounce the light onto us in just the right way. We tried our best to settle in, but I felt really nervous and couldn’t sit still. I could tell that Mike was feeling the same way. We both started to take pictures of our “set”: pictures of each other in the viewing screen on the cinematographer’s camera, sitting in the chairs where you could see the boom and the lights and the reflectors. They artfully set up pictures of the boys on different pieces of furniture, both in the living room and in Ethan’s room (which was to be Colin’s room, once upon a time).

We guzzled water and sat in the old folding chairs from his grandma’s card table set while the crew checked audio and Judith made conversation with us. The boys were sequestered in our den, but the mic was picking up every noise they made and the dog barking in the back yard. I had no idea mics could be so sensitive!

There was a production assistant who eagerly accepted the challenge of watching the boys and our dog, Molly. I was truly impressed. We suggested they walk up to the local ice cream place. We figured that would be long enough to keep them busy, so we could finish filming. Chaos ensued as the boys got excited to go for ice cream with their new friend and the dog’s exuberance exploded in reaction to the boys’ excitement. And they were off.

And we were ready to finally start with the interview. Until a lawnmower started buzzing outside and the audio guy let us know that he could hear it. Foiled again. The cinematographer ran outside to talk to the landscaping guy who was mowing the lawn. He returned with the news that the mower would be finished in about 20 min. Judith sighed and rolled her eyes, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” She then leaned in and looked at us and started to apologize. We explained that she didn’t need to apologize for OUR noisy neighborhood! But we were all starting to get a little tired, and the lights made the living room hot even though the air was on.

Fast forward nearly 30 minutes later, and we were finally able to get started. Judith would ask us questions and we would answer them. Usually the question was merely a jumping off point to get us talking about our story. We tried to balance the storytelling between the two of us, but I think it leaned a little more toward me talking about it, especially when talking about what we did for other people, since I had initiated much of the work we did for various charities. Mike acknowledged that, of course, but I have to give him props for reaching out to Judith (thanks, hon!).

We kept talking and talking, and we finally had to take a break to get a drink of water and do some technical tweaking. Judith was constantly thanking us and encouraging us, telling us that we were doing great. She was terrific at keeping us on track–preventing us from rambling too much as we talked.

In the meantime, my mom had called to come pick up the kids for their usual Friday visit. I asked her to go to the ice cream stand and pick up the boys, the dog, and the production assistant. She was, fortunately, agreeable to the request. She called to tell us that she had found them all sitting in the shade of a roadside tree between there and home, taking a break from the oppressive heat of the late afternoon. They got home to pick up their things and leave, and the production assistant and the dog hung out in the shade outside. Molly’s barking was no longer a concern because she was completely worn out from the walk.

It took a little while longer, but we finished the interview. Toward the end, I started to get really emotional. We were talking about how our faith was impacted by the loss. I remember getting emotional, and start crying, but I couldn’t remember, until I saw the screening, what I said. It made Judith cry and bring her hands up to her heart. My husband told me that I what I had said was amazing. I couldn’t remember at all. It was seriously an out-of-body experience–the entire interview.

We wrapped things up and Judith and Marguerite, her producer, thanked us profusely and talked about filming some b-roll (action footage to be played with the interview as voice over) later in the month. I was completely and utterly exhausted for the next few days. Telling our whole story again was emotionally and physically draining. My muscles were actually sore and I was physically tired. I was surprised by the toll that it took on us, but it was worth it, without a doubt.

We completed the filming at the Tomorrow’s Child walk a few weeks later, so people could see Colin’s handiwork in action.

In February, the film premiered after the families screened it a week prior. We finally got to meet all of the cast (which would be ANOTHER blog post–or five). We immediately bonded with everyone. The public premieres were amazing experiences. So moving. So difficult. So enlightening. So empowering. At the last night, a gentleman in a yarmulke came up to me and put his hand on my arm. He spoke, “In my religion, we have something called kiddush hashem. It means to glorify God. Tonight, you have glorified God.” I choked on tears and thanked him. I was completely overwhelmed and humbled by what he said. I still am.

I do hope that you will try to make a screening, or at least visit the website to learn more about the film and watch the trailer ( I believe it is going to be important. No one has ever allowed the survivors to tell the truth about grief in as raw a manner as this documentary does. You really feel everything that the griever is feeling. Everyone is raw and honest about their process. No pretense. No filter. The straight truth about surviving the tragic loss of a loved one.

Brava, Judith. All we did was tell our stories. You and your team made them beautiful.


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