Monday, October 10, 2011



Recently with the passing of the great Steve Jobs, I was jolted back to the times I faced death. In his eight-year battle with pancreatic cancer, Steve recalled the words he’d read when he was seventeen: “if you live each day as if it was your last, one day you’ll most certainly be right.” This stuck with him throughout his life, and in a small measure, contributed to his staggering career and success.  That was brilliant Steve Jobs.

Death, the very thing he thought about, I tried to forget. He lived each day as if it was his last, and I lived each day denying it was my last.  Alas…all of us can’t have deep philosophical genius like Steve. My savior was…Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice, the BBC six-part mini series, first aired in 1995 on A&E network.
Opening credits: the most uplifting score by Carl Davis transported me to my happy place before the first scene had begun. I was already inclined to love what came next. It felt wonderful to laugh and cry with the Bennet family, especially the bold Elisabeth ‘Lizzy’ Bennet aka Jennifer Ehle (presently playing George Clooney’s wife in Ides Of March). From the couch where I lay, weak and listless, I saw myself skipping with Lizzy through the lush English countryside in Hertfordshire. I agreed with every word she spoke in that marvelously clear, yet colorful old English speech. When asked whether she plays an instrument she replies, “Aye, but very ill.”

Aye, I was very ill, and nay, I wasn’t playing. Only now, looking back, do I realize the long, dragged out nightmare of my condition. My second transplant was still three years off, but the symptoms of deterioration had already begun. Pride and Prejudice turned out to be a trusted and comforting escape.

I ignored knife-twisting pain in my liver and took pleasure watching beautiful scenes of pastoral bliss in the early nineteenth century. The Bennet girls delighted me with their antics; I felt as if I were part of the gossip. Forget ALT, AST, Alkaline Phosphatase, Creatinine and BUN (liver an kidney function values), more importantly…what?! Charlotte Lucas is marrying that buffoon Mr. Collins? The ridiculous Mr. Collins and over-the-top Mrs. Bennet kept me laughing while my spleen ached. Was my spleen really aching? Or was it laughter that made my stomach ache?

When an episode of Pride and Prejudice came on once a week, I climbed into the television, sat at the dinner table next to Lydia, the youngest and silliest of the Bennet sisters, and watched her make one childish mistake after the other. How could she? I asked when she took off with Mr. Whickam, that lying son-of-a-bitch. And of course there was Mr. Darcy, handsome, seriously handsome Colin Firth. I loved every moment Lizzy and he appeared on screen; he, the arrogant prick, and she, the no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is rubenesque, rosy cheeked, bulging breasted beauty; basically me, except for the rubenesque, rosy cheeked, bulging breast beauty part. Everything she said to Mr. Darcy she copied from me. I lived vicariously through healthy-looking Lizzy. Ouch! My stomach

I re-decorated in my mind the Bennet’s Longborn residence, but left Mr. Darcy’s magnificent chateau at Pemberley intact. The simplicity and innocence of life back then felt soothing: their days consisted of going from one ‘ball’ to the next, one dinner to the next, one rose branch to the next.

In 1996 Pride and Prejudice came out on DVD. I kept a copy next to my bed. As my body deteriorated, and working out at the gym wasn’t enough to stave off fear and depression, I watched P&P repeatedly. After that, the world was right again. I had regrouped; I’d found my way back to my center and my strength.  

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice deals with deeper issues than the superficial level at which I chose to view it. It addresses everything from women’s rights, rebellious youth, pedophilia, class separation and class-consciousness, ignorance, and of course pride and prejudice.

In 2007, I underwent a partial knee replacement. I was walking with crutches towards my house when the phone rang. My coordinator at UCLA Medical Center (person who follows you after the transplant) was on the phone. He didn’t mince his words when he told me I was rejecting my second liver and had to go to the emergency room right away. Instead, I speed-dialed my doctor in Miami. Then I booked a flight, a red-eye, packed a few things and waited for my son, Daniel, to pick me up. While I waited, I elevated and iced my freshly operated knee, then popped the DVD of P&P into my computer and visited the Bennet’s…for six hours.

I’m convinced that any method you find to cope is a good one. For Steve Jobs, a sentence he had heard in his youth made something click. Pride and Prejudice was one of the tools I used when bad news kept coming. To this day, P&P is downloaded to my computer. Every now and then, I’ll watch it, because the Bennet’s and I, we’re family.

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