In the end, it comes down to the same thing for each & every one of us, a final curtain, a fade-out. If we are lucky, someone will miss us, and there will be a rolling out of credits, either as a memorial or funeral or some type of gathering of family & friends.
While I was not in the company of either Joan Fontaine or her sister, Olivia de Haviland, I do understand the lasting confusion of two sisters who became estranged & would not speak nor visit with each other. They were not glamorous nor famous. But they were sisters, our mother, Betty, and her sister, our Aunt Mary Louise. Sibling rivalry, going back as far as their early childhood never ended, till that sad March day in 1996, when one of my cousins called me to let me know that her mother (the eldest) was no more of this earth. No one wept nor grieved more profoundly than did my mother, who would fade away not too long afterwards, due to the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease. The day after my Aunt’s funeral, I can still remember my mother, tearfully saying to me, “I can’t stand to think of my sister’s body out there underneath all this awful snow.” The pain of the separation was simply expressed in that statement, but the lost years could not be brought back. They both missed out on so very much.
If I could write a letter to Olivia de Haviland, it would simply be to say, “Let it go. Embrace her children, her grandchildren, her legacy, for the rest of your days. Let the wounds heal. You both got to live out many of your dreams, and left superb legacies in the process. It does not get better than that.”
For me, going back to attempt to visit with my mother & fit it a visit with my Aunt (and I adored them both, in different ways) was like attempting to deal with a divorce. Yes, it does seem that sisters can divorce, but the trade-off is just not something that I would advise, nor wish on anyone.
I always thought it was because they were so much alike…but will never really know.
May this visual tribute to Joan Fontaine inspire those who have estranged family members to come together, celebrate what you have in common, and let the stuff that is not important go.