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Love Strengthened by Loss


a blog by Pamela Tsigdinos

I'm an easy mark when it comes to poignant stories - a regular waterworks. Books, films, commercials, magazine articles, blog entries - you name it - if the narrative contains even the remotest heart-tugging element, I can be found rummaging for a tissue.

One recent film left me especially verklempt as it evoked an all-too-familiar ache. So what was the movie behind the mangled tissue? Up.

Isn't that a cartoon movie? Yes, it is, but it contains the story of Ellie and Carl, a tale that will melt even the hardest heart. For infertiles like me their story goes much, much deeper. (Fair warning to my fellow softies: The 3D film format offers the added challenge of wiping away tears and blowing one's nose behind 3D glasses that also fog up one's view.)

Here's what I could see between nose blows...

With the lightest, endearing touch, the folks at Pixar devote the first few minutes of the film setting the scene for a love story that starts at a tender age and endures through thick and thin. In a montage with no dialogue, we see Ellie and Carl cavorting, laughing, picnicking and planning a life together. Then the sequences reveal a major life changing event. In one scene Ellie is painting a nursery, the next she's being comforted by Carl in a doctor's office. The killer frame, though, is when we see Ellie sitting almost zombie-like in a chair in the backyard. A once irrepressible spirit she is immobile, inconsolable. With just a few heart-stirring images, Pixar perfectly captured the loss felt by those of us who once joyfully set off to conceive only to be walloped by the unthinkable: infertility and all of the losses it inflicts.

Resilient, Ellie and Carl forge ahead and we see an affection - a bond that was strong - grow even stronger as they lovingly look after each other in ways large and small. That's just the first 10 minutes of the film. There's much more to like in the remaining hour and a half with a heartfelt adventure that takes viewers along on a colorful, fantastic ride.

But it's the beginning of Up that will stay with me. I can't think of the last time, if ever, I've seen a film, TV or short story that offered up an infertile couple as protagonists in a love story. It was oddly comforting to see such a little known, angst-inducing experience played out with such sensitivity and compassion on the big screen. It's interesting, too, that it took the courage and creativity of animators to effectively convey a very personal heart-wrenching experience.

I can't help but hope that Ellie and Carl's vignette leads to greater sensitivity and compassion for those experiencing the much longer version in real life. Meanwhile, I'm Ellie to my Carl and like them, we share a profound love strengthened by loss.

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