By Reg Green —
It may seem like the ultimate in narcissism, but my choice for best grief film is a TV movie that was made about my own family. It is called “Nicholas’ Gift” and is the story of how, on a vacation in Italy, our seven-year-old son, Nicholas, was shot in an attempted carjacking and how we donated his organs and saved many lives.
Jamie Lee Curtis played my wife, Maggie. Alan Bates was me. The director was Robert Markowitz, whose long list of titles includes “Tuskegee Airmen,” a TV movie about the first African-American air squadron in World War II. We worked closely with the whole team to make sure the key details of the plot and the dialogue were as accurate as possible.
We showed the screenwriter, Christine Berardo, Nicholas’ school, took her on one of his favorite hikes and sat together at his graveside. Instead of a mock-up, we gave them the worn sheepskin that he took with him everywhere and which was next to him when he was shot. Even the most hardened prop handler treated it with a gentleness approaching reverence. Robert even included in the background music a snatch of a tune that I told him kept coming to me in the early days, “The Minstrel Boy,” who died in battle in a far away place.
The mood on the set was one of uncompromising seriousness. At one point in the movie, Nicholas, in a coma and barely alive, is driven away into the night in an ambulance, leaving us by the side of the road, just as it happened in real life. I can still feel the jagged emptiness of that moment. When Alan Bates had finished the scene, he said to me: “That was one of the bleakest experiences of my life.” He had lost a son too and it was clear he was re-living the experience.
Everyone in the team seemed to feel the mixture of anguish and inspiration of five people, four of them teenagers, being brought back from the shadow of death and two others, parents of young children, having their sight restored, only because a magical little boy had been cut down. Fourteen years later, all seven recipients of Nicholas’ organs and tissue are still enjoying their second chance.
Meanwhile, at least 50 million people around the world have seen the movie. Few of them, I believe, can have watched it without reflecting that good can come out of the most tragic events.
Reg Green is an organ donation advocate and author of the Nicholas Effect and The Gift that Heals. He will send a free copy of the DVD of “Nicholas’ Gift” (while supplies last) to anyone who contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Tags: belongings, funerals, money, grief, hope