Memories from a private memorial for Roger Ebert

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In this Jan. 12, 2011 file photo, Pulitzer Prize-winning movie critic Roger Ebert works in his office at the WTTW-TV studios in Chicago. | AP

Andy Ihnatko is a columnist covering technology for the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Grid.

But for years he has also been fortunate enough to call Roger Ebert a friend. Sharing a love of classic films and, increasingly, technology, the two became close.

On Sunday, Ihnatko and several dozen of those closest to the Eberts gathered to remember their friend. Here are some of Ihnatko's thoughts on the day, the full telling of which can be found on his blog:

Yesterday, about a hundred or more of Roger's friends and family gathered in a small chapel for a private service. His wife, Chaz, didn't eulogize Roger. She testified, in many senses of that word. She paced around the wood-paneled room like the trial attorney she once was, speaking with resolution and without notes. And she spoke of her love for Roger the way that a deeply religious person speaks of their love for God.

"This is the day The Lord has made," Chaz began. Many in the room were able to complete the verse from the 118th Psalm: "Let us rejoice and be glad in it." She said that she felt that and said it every morning when she woke up next to Roger. "He was a humble man who walked with kings. And he was my prince."

I learned more about Roger's final days. He was hospitalized and on painkillers, but his mind was at its usual full luminosity. There was a curious difference in his final days, she said. Roger, of course, communicated largely through handwritten notes. During the last week, he started to initial and date them. Chaz wishes she'd saved them. Roger went through countless sheets of note paper throughout the day and nobody had any idea that he'd be gone.

Roger did get in one last joke. His family asked him if, after he died, he could send some sort of sign that there was life beyond the grave. They were kidding around. Roger was an agnostic, not an atheist, but he was a skeptic at heart and didn't go in for that kind of theatrical nonsense.

So they were surprised when he agreed, earnestly and seriously. "Well, what will the sign be?" they asked. "When the first female black president is elected," he responded.

Andy has more on his memories and thoughts about Ebert here and here.

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This page contains a single entry by Craig Newman published on April 8, 2013 7:39 AM.

Live-blog of Roger Ebert's funeral was the previous entry in this blog.

UPDATE: Westboro Baptist Church doesn't show up after threat to picket Ebert's funeral is the next entry in this blog.

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