a breathing lesson

I saw an interview with the woman who is portrayed by Helen Hunt in the film The Surrogate which was apparently the buzz of Sundance, and rightly so.

The movie is the story of Mark O’Brien, or at least the story of part of his life, the part where he used a hired sex surrogate in order to lose his virginity, something that was pretty hard to do since he’d spent nearly every hour of his life in an iron lung, quadriplegic since age 6 when polio took away his childhood and beyond, this boy who wanted to be a fireman, who ran and played and now had only three muscles he could control, in his neck his right foot and his jaw.

Cheryl Cohen Greene, when interviewed, told of how she kissed him on his chest, and how he cried, for that was the part of his body he was most ashamed of, his torso twisted and undeveloped. She cried when she recounted the moment, saying:

“He told me nobody had ever touched him other than to bathe him, dress him or do a medical procedure. He said that he felt like he was on the outside of a fine restaurant, looking in the window. Everybody in there is having a feast, but he’ll never be able to taste that food.”

He described the moment himself in the film Jessica Yu made about him, Breathing Lessons, which received an Academy Award in 1997. Watch it (just click on the link, it’s only 35 mins long), please. It is the story of a man, of a life, that you will never forget.

A poet. A journalist. Above all a man who has much to teach us about humility, about love and beauty and despair and hope. I wish I’d known him.


4 thoughts on “a breathing lesson

  1. This is so interesting. I’m about to watch it at work, no ones come into the bookstore and I have a coffee mug and a giant table all to myself.

    Thanks for this.

  2. That was beyond amazing. Such an incredible man with so many gifts that he wished to share and yet his body would not allow it. I will never complain about writer’s block again. He was possibly the most inspirational person I’ve witnessed in a very long time. Once again, thanks for turning me on to this powerful story.

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