Roger Ebert dies at 70 after longtime struggle with cancer, just one day after announcing plans to focus on health
The sad news comes just one day after Ebert announced plans to scale back on work -- sort of. He told fans that he would be taking a "leave of presence" as opposed to absence. He'd write fewer movie reviews (last year, he reviewed 306 films) and instead focus on his health and on other ventures. His plans included a potential fourth "Great Movies" book, his Ebert Digital ventures, and even reviving "At The Movies" with the help of a Kickstarter campaign.
He also told fans that he planned to write more about his health struggles. Ebert was diagnosed with cancer over a decade ago, and lost his lower jaw and his ability to speak.
"The immediate reason for my 'leave of presence' is my health. The 'painful fracture' that made it difficult for me to walk has recently been revealed to be a cancer. It is being treated with radiation, which has made it impossible for me to attend as many movies as I used to," Ebert wrote this week. "At this point in my life, in addition to writing about movies, I may write about what it's like to cope with health challenges and the limitations they can force upon you. It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital. So on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness."
He leaves behind a powerful legacy -- indeed, he was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer -- as well as his beloved wife and business partner, Chaz Hammelsmith.
Ebert once wrote the following in an article titled "I Do Not Fear Death": I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.
Ebert's final published words were, "So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies."