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The Last Days of Extraordinary People Portrayed in Local Documentary

This Saturday will mark the world film premier of a locally produced documentary honoring those who bravely face their last days, or who are fighting to live through a serious illness. All individuals featured in the documentary share a common message of hope. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann spoke with the film’s producers and partners, and has this report.

The Last Days of Extraordinary Lives was created by Randy Bacon and his wife, Shannon. Randy, a local photographer, was inspired by stories told to him by two of his photo clients. These stories were about hospice patients experiencing their last days of life. He says that what began as a simple film turned into something much bigger. “Filming the movie, we are like, ‘What are we getting into,’ because it is a documentary. It’s not narrative. We don’t have a script. But we go in and we want to hear their stories. We were concerned that the stories would be the same, 13 of them. What we found is that there are 13 totally different stories--each one with a different message of hope, joy, and believe it or not, laughter,” said Bacon.

Angie Ricketts has been a social worker for Good Shepherd Hospice for the last eight years. She is one of the clients who inspired the Bacons with her patients’ stories. She says we can learn a lot from these stories.“People at the end of life, there is actually a passage in First Corinthians that says, ‘though the body is dying, the spirit is growing.’ And when you are with somebody, and connected to somebody at the end of life, you realize that--that their bodies may begin to betray them, but spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, many times they’re growing, and they have a lot to say and teach us,” Ricketts said.

Although most of those featured in this film are, in their own words, “living to die,” its youngest member is “dying to live.” Pearl, who is now two years old, is currently in remission for kidney cancer. Her mother, Charity Hollan, says that when they were first approached to do this film, she wanted to stress that they were not celebrating last days, but rather looking forward to many more days to come. Hollan says that the message they want to convey is not one of mourning or grief, but of appreciation for the people we love. She says it’s important to appreciate them today while they are still with us.

“You begin to sit back and reflect on life as a whole, and decide that the things that were a priority to you; you don’t have time for anymore. You begin to start fighting just to live, and that becomes your priority. Your family becomes your number one priority, the time you are able spend with them, the love you can share, and just the things you can do together,” Hollan said.

Shannon Bacon couldn’t agree more.

“It doesn’t take someone getting sick, I realized during this process, to make changes in your life now. A lot of people have made changes due to someone in their life being ill in their home. But to me it’s just telling people ‘don’t wait,’” Bacon said.

Jan Roselman, a hospice nurse for Hospice Compasses, is also one of the producers of the film. She says she hopes this film will bring about awareness.“I would like for people to know that hospice is not just for cancer patients. It is for patients who are experiencing the final stages of any disease process. I hate when people miss out on the opportunity to have hospice care, either in a long-term care facility or in their home, because they don’t know to ask for it. Or their family doesn’t know to ask for it,” Roselman said.

One of the 13 extraordinary lives featured in the documentary is an elderly woman reflecting on what really matters.

sound-insert from the film’s trailer

The film premiers this Saturday, October the 16th, at the Gillioz Theatre in Springfield. Doors will open at 6:00 p.m. and show time is at 7:00 p.m. All proceeds go to the Extraordinary Lives Foundation, which was created as a result of this documentary through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. This foundation will provide those “extra” things to enhance the physical and spiritual quality at the end of life, which insurance and hospice do not cover. You can find a link to the film’s trailer below. For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.

Click here to see the film's trailer

Click here to find out more about The Extraordinary Lives Foundation