What I learned from ?Astro Boy?What was the most important thing? Was it the realization of the difference between good and evil … the personification of political ambition … the quest for acceptance … the struggle for family identity … discrimination … the reality of being different isn?t easy … the realization that being human hurts … that being ?big? doesn?t mean being ?right?… As I sat with my popcorn I was visited by so many ?David and Goliath? memories.
This afternoon, I received a phone call from my son … ?Dad, Ayden (my grandson) and I are catching a 4:30 show called ?Astro Boy? … it?s kind of a cartoon dad, but would you like to join us??
I didn?t know what an ?Astro Boy? was but the opportunity for three generations of the McCormick family to share time together was far too precious to pass up. Who would have thought that by buying a ticket to an animated film set in a futuristic city … a city floating above a robot-junk-infested earth, I would be reminded of lessons about grief that have dominated most of my working life.
I went into the movie with a firm grip on the funeral director?s perspective of the journey of life. With my ?seniors pass? firmly in hand, I sat beside my grandson with forty-plus years of experiences in my head. In the animated film (definitely not a cartoon), when his son Toby dies in an explosion, Dr. Tenma is so saddened that he builds a robot looking exactly like his boy. A father?s grief drives him to create a replica of the loved one he has lost. In the theatre I mused that in real life the same temptations are there for us too … not so much to replicate the person as much as the desire to replace them with someone or something else.
Grief isn?t easy and each grieving is different but replacement only serves to solve the immediate problem. In the long run it is sadly inadequate. As funeral professionals we have all experienced grieving widows and widowers frantically attempting to replace the one they have lost with pets, trips or projects. Like me, you have probably observed those who eventually come to the realization that ?replacing a loved one? with something else doesn?t bring them back. Replacement doesn?t solve the problem. They then get down to finding ways to realistically get on with the rest of their lives in manners that are healthy and helpful to their healing?
In the film offering, I watched a proud father treat his ?created? robot-son as if nothing had happened to his birth son, but in moments of quiet sadness, cracks developed in the fabric of the charade that soon led to the father?s realization that he had to get on with life in a more realistic way. Of course, as in all good family-friendly movies, the problems are all solved in an idealistic ending that addresses all the issues … and lays the groundwork for the next blockbuster episode.
And yet, there I sat … revisiting my philosophy of life and reaffirming my mission of service to the broken and grieving ones of my community. Yes, ?Astro Boy? did that for me. In equally unexpected ways in this life when we are all called to pause and learn more about ourselves … to open ourselves to the mystery of life and death through channels that are surprise gifts of reality.
The movie ?Astro Boy? ends up being the tale of a true hero with amazing powers but at the same time it is the tale of a little boy who is different on a quest for acceptance. As I sat in that theatre I reflected on the journey of each of us as pilgrims on the path of life and I realized that I knew so many real-life super heroes … the ones struggling to live within the reality of loss. Thank you ?Astro Boy?.
PS: If you go to the movie, and I encourage everyone to check it out … send me a comment if you are able to identify SCI …