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© 2013 Kebba Buckley Button.  World Rights Reserved.

UpBeat Living, Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert 2002
Photo by Andrew Sullivan

In the previous post, UpBeat Living celebrated the irrepressible, upbeat nature and achievements of Roger Ebert, who sadly passed away on April 4th.  Today, we celebrate his final project, Remaking My Voice.

Known primarily as the most authentic and truly blunt film critic to grace our TV screens, Ebert had been a chatty communicator since at least grade school.  In first grade, he was told he talked too much.  By High School, he was a reporter serving the school newspaper.  By age 25, he was working for the Chicago Sun-Times.  He continued to work for the Sun-Times in various media until his death.  He used his voice for radio, television, and movies.

In what could have been seen as a tragedy, Ebert went on to lose his physical voice in 2006.  Cancer surgery made it impossible for him to talk.  After an apparently successful operation to rebuild his jaw, Ebert thought he was going back to work in a few weeks.  He had pre-taped six weeks of programs.  However, one day his carotid artery—the huge artery that runs along the side of the side of the neck, behind the jaw, and up into the brain— burst. His doctor said he had never seen anyone survive a carotid artery rupture. Ebert then spent a year in the hospital and had six more ruptures of the carotid.  The team gave up on reconstruction of the jaw.  His physical voice was done.  Ebert would later write: “[H]uman speech is an ingenious manipulation of our breath, within the sound chamber of our mouth and respiratory system.  We need to be able to hold and manipulate that breath, in order to form sounds.”  He could no longer do that.  But he was still sparkling, animated, and funny.

Now this dynamo simply accelerated into new forms of expression, as well as greatly stepping up his writing via blogs and Twitter.  He began “speaking” by keyboarding at a computer that spoke for him.   Saying he had always taken for granted the ability to speak, Ebert presented a TED talk in 2011 (www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNXOVpN8Wgg).  Sitting with his wife and three friends, they shared the narrative and Ebert finished with a joke, which he keyboarded into a laptop that spoke for him.

Ebert’s final message to those of us “listening”:  “[W]hat you see is not all you get!”  To attempt rebuilding his jaw, surgeons had harvested bone from his shoulders, which actually affected not only his shoulder profile, but also the way he walked.  Now missing a jaw altogether, Ebert had an unusual face shape.  He found that people would stare, and some would assume he was deaf, then shouting to him.  Only his physical voice was missing.  Through technology, he had found his greater voice, and he could express himself more and better than ever.  In his TED talk, Ebert did not talk about gratitude for life as such, but he expressed it, in his lively ebullience and his obvious love for communication, for his wife, and for his friends.  This was a man who truly lived.

Roger Ebert:  a voice for the ages.  Let us continue to hear him and his message.


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● Kebba Buckley Button is a Master’s Degree scientist, a minister, and the award-winning author of  the 2012 book, Peace Within:  Your Peaceful Inner Core (http://tinyurl.com/abd47jr), and also Discover The Secret Energized You (http://tinyurl.com/b44v3br).  She also has a natural healing and stress management practice and is a celebrated public speaker.


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