It’s quite hard to think about our own mortality. As kids, we may have morbidly talked about how we thought we would go — but as time passes, the simple childish chatter that once filled our days becomes a closer, more chilling reality. The fact is we will all die at some point. Yes, it’s dreadful to think about death, but fate has a plan for each of us. A plan we can’t change. All we can do is pray that the dark angel will give us enough time to live and excuse us from this life in some sort of gentle manner.
For four seasons, we’ve bonded with Cathy Jamison (Laura Linney) — a high school teacher who is dealing with the tragedy and humor associated with the fight against cancer — on Showtime’s The Big C. But it wasn’t until Season 4 that we learned that Cathy’s cancer was terminal.
The first three seasons were all about the humor surrounding the crazy life adjustments Cathy makes in coping with her cancer fight. But it was more than the comedy that made us love this show. It’s the way that Darlene Hunt, The Big C’s creator and executive producer, and her team of writers were able to evenly balance comedy with a investigation of a more serious topic: mortality. This balance demonstrated a beauty rarely seen in television. At one point, you were cracking up at an irresistible joke, and then the next moment you were moved to tears as the show delved into a sensitive topic like Cathy stocking a secret storage unit with presents for each of her son Adam’s (Gabriel Basso) birthdays that she would miss after she passed away. Or watching Cathy try to get her wedding dress back after she had tried to sell it at a consignment shop, only to see a bride trying on the dress and reminding her of the day she married Paul (Oliver Platt).
Last season, we were given hope as Cathy seemed to be on the path to recovery. But then, a cold reality swept in at the end of the season when she got news that her tumors had started to grow again.
This season, Cathy faced the toughest of all decisions: to continue to fight the losing battle against cancer or to drop out of treatment and enjoy her remaining time with her family. It was easy to connect with Paul as he lived in denial, only to be rudely awakened by a radio interview to the fact that his wife was dying. Or to feel Adam’s anxiety about his mother’s comfort levels in hospice. If you could have reached through the TV screen and put a blanket on his shoulders as he stayed up all night by her side, you would have.
This season was a lot less about humor and much more about truth. There were more tears and more emotional drama than ever before, and then Cathy died. It may sound strange to say, but there is no other way to describe Cathy’s passing: it was truly beautiful.
First, when Cathy realized that her end was near, she made the decision to put herself into hospice so as not to intrude on her family. She selflessly decided that she didn’t want her house to be haunted by her death.
And then, as previously mentioned, Cathy’s illusions were not haunting. She was instead guided to the light by familiar faces of those in her life who had already passed on including Dr. Atticus Sherman (Alan Alda) and Marlene (Phyllis Somerville).
Cathy’s final goodbyes may seem a bit whimsical, but there was something magical about this scene. People don’t always get to say goodbye, and Cathy was able to do so with everyone she loved at a final meal. She was even able to find closure with her distanced father.
Finally, Cathy had one wish before she died. It wasn’t to beat death, but to live long enough to see her son graduate from high school. She had started to accept that she wouldn’t live long enough to see this happen, but then Adam surprised her by getting his diploma early and setting up a mock graduation back at their home.
This whole resolution may sound cliché, but there’s no denying that it was peaceful and beautiful. After saying her goodbyes and living to see her one wish get granted, Cathy passed away quietly in her home. She died knowing that she was loved and had lived life to its fullest.
And as if that concept wasn’t tranquil enough, The Big C took us and Cathy on one final journey. We were left with a pleasant scene of Cathy’s heaven or afterlife. Many of us hope that when we pass, we will find these a serene place filled with familiar places. For Cathy, that place was swimming in a pool with her friend Marlene and her late dog.
This ending provided the best closure any finale could provide.
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.