About a week and a half ago the two stars of Room 335, and two of my closest friends, passed away: Bill Delarm, at age 81, and Tammy Signorile, at age 97.
I have written letters to both of them to share with whomever reads this blog. It seems only appropriate; my relationships with both of them were carried out in front of a camera and I’d like to now share some lasting thoughts.
November 6, 2006
Bill and Tammy,
It was about day six of our stay at Harbor Place. Jonah and Will were filming me standing in the Activities Room looking at the large fish tank…. Needless to say, it all felt kind of silly: what were we doing? Maybe this whole idea of making a movie about old people would turn out to be nothing more than a month of bad food. Maybe I had made a mistake.
I heard a strange chirping noise. I hadn’t seen him approach but a man with large, thick glasses was suddenly standing right next to me. He wore a Hawaii shirt and pointed at the fish.
‘They’re nice, ain’t they?” said Bill Delarm.
Bill, you turned out to be my best friend. Maybe it was your spirit: the Hawaiian shirts, the punching, the daily walks to the Dollar Store. From 7 AM to when Jeopardy started in the evening you would be walking around, ‘checking things out’. If you saw a woman, you were ready to put your arm around her. If there was a man, you were probably ready to land a punch.
‘What’s your name?”, you would ask me dozens of times during my stay.
‘What are you doing here? Where are you from? Can’t you get a lady? Are you going to visit after you leave?’
I always knew you enjoyed life because you were always so curious. The questions never stopped.
On the day you passed away, a lot of people across this country lost their favorite soldier. Your name and life will forever be remembered. You understood me as well as anyone ever has—and in a lot of ways, I think I knew you just as well. Booya!
And to Tammy, I called Harbor Place today to send you our latest film festival trophy. I am sorry that I couldn’t get it to you on time. I know that you are looking down on all of us and smiling: I just hope that we can provide as much love to our family and friends as you gave to all of yours. I am sure that you are now with that handsome husband you always spoke of!
More than anything Tammy, you were such a wonderful spirit. I hope St. Peter didn't ask you to spell Czechoslovakia to pass through the pearly gates (although I am sure you know how to spell it). I remember when we went to visit you in the hospital. You told me that everyday you would try to ‘say something nice’ to a friend, even a stranger. Your message is clear - and that is the only thing that really makes sense in this crazy world….compassion.
You guys both showed your compassion in completely different ways. Although you were physically unable to do a lot of things Tammy, you had such a sharp mind. I remember watching Libby roll you around in the wheelchair. You would stop at a table of residents all solemnly eating their dinner. By the time you left, everyone was laughing, smiling, and for just a minute they all forget about their troubles and tribulations. There are few people that have this ability and you never lost it. And then there was Bill. Now you could tell the occasional joke but you showed your compassion through your physical ability. The diabetes prevented you from eating candy. But you still went to the candy store everyday to get everyone else at Harbor Place a good chocolate bar. Everyday you did this. And when I visited you in May that is the first thing I saw: you, as always, on the daily walk to the Dollar Store. You showed your compassion by punching people, by a smack on the back, by your wonderful and infectious smile. I’ll never forget that.
I went into Harbor Place with the idea that I was going to make a movie about old people. But I left with a group of friends, two of my best friends being Tammy and Bill.
You left this world a better place than you found it. And I am not surprised that the two of you left this world at the same time. Perhaps someone up in the clouds saw the film and just couldn’t wait for an autograph.
Your beauty, your wisdom, and more than anything, your smiles can now be enjoyed by the Heavens that await us all.