Now before I go any further, there are 2 main parts to this post: THE DEPRESSING, and THE UPLIFTING. If the depressing part gets to be too much - just skip to the UPLIFTING part, which is what Hollywood needs to pour their time and efforts building up anyway - this post is going to show you A REAL HAPPY ENDING - and yes, I do mean a REAL LIFE, QUALITY, EVEN-AMID-EXTREME-ADVERSITY TRULY HAPPY ENDING.
Part 1: THE DEPRESSING
"ME BEFORE YOU" REVIEW:
It started out beautifully. The acting was great, the cinematography was gorgeous. The setting was ideal. The actors & actresses were top-notch. I even cried at the beauty of the changes that were happening in Will Traynor's life as Lou helped him to enjoy life again after his terrible accident that paralyzed him forever.
Now I'm going to do something that I have a personal code against doing. I'm going to spoil the ending, so stop reading now if you want to watch the movie first.
The movie ends with Will (the paralyzed main actor) committing an assisted suicide. Don't get me wrong - we were all bawling, it was still "well-done", it was still emotional, the actors and actresses portrayed everything perfectly, but all I could think about was how sad it is that Hollywood chooses to GLORIFY things like this.
They throw the best of the best into creating a film to advance a political message about the "need" for assisted suicide?
As if someone who has a disability has no more reason to live?
As if a life with any adversity is one worth throwing away?
As if the people in our lives who we love, whose bodies are "not perfect" anymore because of something they had no control over, are now not worth fighting for?
As if the message I need to learn from this is that when the going gets tough, give up?
Part of Will Traynor's reasoning for killing himself was that he didn't want his girlfriend Lou to EVER resent him for the difficulty of taking care of him, so supposedly he was trying to be self-less? Lou even tells him he's the most selfish man she knew, but then she joins his side before he dies to spend the final moments with him, because she couldn't change his mind. In his will, he leaves her with money so she can live a comfortable life to travel without him or his wheelchair to slow her down.
Excuse me? So much for political correctness - what about sending politically correct messages to the disabled population? Apparently they don't count enough for Hollywood to glorify their goodness in overcoming adversity.
ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT before I get to the main point of this post:
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING REVIEW -
About a year ago, my husband and I went to watch the movie about Stephen Hawking. We were excited to see an uplifting film about overcoming adversity. As the love story unfolded I knew this couple was going to make it. But they didn't. They started out facing their problems hand in hand, got married, had children, and things were good for a while, but Stephen never died like they had originally planned on, and life became harder. Their hearts grew apart, and the way it's portrayed in the movie - Stephen's wife left him for the choir director at church, and he left her for his caretaker. They only remained friends, which it's fortunate they kept that much.
Also, when they were having marital problems, it is portrayed in the movie that Stephen turned to porn, and his caretaker turned the pages of it for him. Interestingly enough, the movie, Me Before You, has joking references to pornography as well.
Now, I am not judging Stephen and Jane - who I know are REAL people, as opposed to the characters in the Me Before You story - I have not walked a day in their shoes, and I cannot say I would have done anything better than they could have. But honestly, their love story, while it has beautiful moments, is also so depressing. It's got to be so much worse to LIVE through that. And you know, it's also got to be so hard to have a marriage between a Christian and an Atheist. While Jane & Stephen didn't remain married, and whether or not Stephen believes in God, I still wholeheartedly feel that God blessed him with talents and that he has taken his talents and made them affect others for good. He is inspiring, and so is Jane, and even parts of their love story still amaze me. I JUST WANTED THEM TO FIND HAPPINESS IN STAYING MARRIED!
The feeling I had leaving the theater on that one was more like a confused, "Hmmm," not a, "I'm so glad I saw that," feeling.
Part 2: THE UPLIFTING
I've decided that I need to quit looking to Hollywood for anything.
The answers we need are not there.
The hope for the future is not there.
Especially not for the disabled.
But I will tell you where the answer is to finding a good, wholesome, honest, and beautiful love story about overcoming adversity, hand in hand, despite a disability.
It's right in my backyard.
Or used to be.
Jeff and Cheri Poulsen used to live a couple blocks behind where I lived. They go to my church. Every Sunday they drive right up into the handicapped parking lot, and get out with bright smiles.
Jeff and Cheri got married on September 17th, in the 1980's - which is the best day to get married, because that's when Mitch and I got married. :)
They had a wonderful marriage, but they struggled with infertility. They tried to adopt, but that road was not easy either - as they had adopted a baby was taken back by the birth family. They saw so much heartbreak.
FINALLY, they got their rainbow baby.
Alyssa came as their 7th anniversary present (photos used with permission).
And life was beautiful for them
Life was perfect.
But their reprieve didn't last long, and adversity struck again:
For an entire year, he was in a hospital. He had to learn how to do everything again and had life-threatening infections to fight. Jeff, as you can imagine, struggled with extreme heartache trying to get his life back. At one point he even told Cheri she should have let him go. Cheri was conflicted about that, too, because she didn't want him to hate her for being saved from death, but she was there for him.
Cheri never gave up on the love of her life.
Jeff is a fighter, and he learned to do some things that help him function in some ways. He used to be athletic & active, but after the tumor he was confined strictly in a wheelchair & would not again be able to walk or stand. A powered wheelchair would help him be as independent as possible, but clearly he will never be the same after his tumor. There were many huge losses for him to have to accept ALL at once and it was a heartbreaking time.
Cheri said, "My emotions were nuts. I couldn't not try & save him tho... I didn't know what the outcome would be and even if I knew, of course you're going to do everything in your power to save your husband no matter HOW he ends up! It was a horrible time."
When it all boils down to it, Jeff Poulsen faced the same struggles and loss as in these Hollywood depictions. But there is a notable difference with Jeff Poulsen. He allowed his trial to bring him closer to his spouse and to God. Jeff didn't turn to pornography, or try to find himself by leaving Cheri. Cheri, while tortured to see her husband this way didn't leave him behind because her life was now nothing like she'd imagined. Cheri and Jeff also didn't opt for assisted suicide.
What they DID do was focus on what the Lord sends all of us here to do - they focused on being self-less for each other. They focused on their divine roles as a mother and father, and they were there for Alyssa. They continually rely on their faith to get them through the hard times, and even though it's still not easy, they OVERCAME IT, and they DID IT TOGETHER.
They raised Alyssa into a beautiful woman who is full of integrity, and kindness.
Their life is not easy, but their life is worth it, and it's worth it because they have each other!
Cheri said, "Now when it comes down to it, he's happy he lives and got to see his daughter grow up - the sweet baby girl he waited so long for, grow up and still be a part of her life. Not in the physical sense.... But in every other way."
So this is the message I was searching for and couldn't find in Hollywood. This is the message that should really be on the big screen - it's a message that should be shared with all the world:
Jeff and Cheri are the epitome of success amid trials & adversity. THEY DID IT - THEY ARE STILL MAKING IT, they gave their daughter the best lesson they could have ever given her & they did it by example! You know what?
YOU CAN, TOO!
Life is not easy. Marriage is not easy. Love is not easy. But Jeff and Cheri have shown us the answers we need to hear by their examples - they are both selfless. Jeff may have not wanted to live, but he was selfless and did it FOR HER. Cheri may have not imagined her life with her sports-fanatic husband needing help because of a disability, but she did it FOR HIM. This is what you call TRUE LOVE, and because of it, they raised Alyssa together, and were able to move forward in faith FOR HER.
One of Cheri's most recent facebook posts stated,
"When you have a heavy heart, you go to the temple. When you have doubts and fears, you go to the temple. When you worry and wonder, yes, you go to the temple... because you'll always come out feeling much better! I don't know what the future holds, but I'll do what the Lord has in store for me."
This is yet another example of selfless-ness. Living in a
family life with a disability affects every single aspect of their
lives. Every. Single. One. And yet, they believe that God has
His hand in all things. And they submit their will to His,
and they do all of this FOR HIM.
With all of my heart, I know that there is going to be a stunning, unimaginably beautiful day where the Lord will make up for all the pain, hurt, and difficult times for Jeff & Cheri. I can't wait for that beautiful day, when this particular LOVE STORY will be the one that gets all the GLORY it deserves.
In the mean time, I just feel really lucky to know them. I have learned so much by the lessons they teach by example every single day; theirs is the kind of story that should be played on the big screen, because life and love amid adversity is absolutely worth fighting for.