“NASHVILLE — I was 10 when “Brian’s Song” aired in 1971 as an ABC Movie of the Week. It is the story of the abiding friendship that grew as Brian Piccolo, who was white, and Gale Sayers, who was Black, competed for playing time as N.F.L. rookies with the Chicago Bears. It’s also the story of Piccolo’s death of cancer at 26. I was a girl in Birmingham, Ala., then “the most segregated city in America,” when “Brian’s Song” reminded this country that race was not an insurmountable barrier to love.
Of course I read “I Am Third,” the 1970 memoir by Gale Sayers from which the film was adapted, as soon as I could get my hands on it. When the bookmobile librarian suggested that I might also like “Death Be Not Proud,” John Gunther’s heart-wrenching account of his 17-year-old son’s death from a brain tumor, I devoured it too.
I was not a child obsessed with death; I simply wanted to understand how the world works. My friend Mary Laura Philpott read the same kinds of books as a child, and for the same reason.”
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Thank you Margaret, for your work and this beautiful essay. I quibble with your opening, “Reading stories is a gentle way for a child to encounter the hardest truth that shadows mortal life: There are no happy endings.” While there are no fairy tale, happily ever after endings,
I think I know a few individuals who faced off with death with dignity and courage, and left the world a much better place than they found it, and left their children with the tools to succeed, as well a having modelled a productive, cheerful, and generous life.
As one Christian elder once said, we all face our own crucifixion to some degree at the end of our lives. While death is inconvenient, and at times horrible and dreadful, it is part of the deal, and can be part of a successful, productive and meaningful life of service.
David also writes at InconvenientNews.net