EDITH + EDDIE
It's just all such a shame. It's a shame that documentary and live-action short films are not seen by the general public (though endless commercials about breast implants and used cars are shown before the trailers). It's also a terrible shame that not only is the story of Edith Hill and Eddie Harrison, the subjects of Edith + Eddie might not be seen, but that such a sad and unnecessary tragedy befell them. Edith + Eddie, in its short 30 minute running time, tells us so much about love, loss, and the abuse seniors endure psychological and physical.
Edith Hill is 96 years old. Eddie Harrison is 95. Edith is African-American. Eddie is Caucasian (the only time this is touched on is when Eddie says it's not the color of the skin but the heart that matters). They met ten years prior and according to Eddie, it was love at first sight. They married at their advanced age and by all appearances doted on each other: dancing at bars, worshipping in church, fixing their false teeth.
Don't laugh: love has been built on stranger things.
Edith and Eddie are living out their final time together in Edith's home which she paid for even after the death of her second husband, cared for by her daughter Rebecca. Rebecca was more than content to let these lovebirds stay as long as they lived there, but her sister Patricia (who is briefly seen and never heard from) wants Edith to leave both the house and Eddie and move to Florida.
What Edith, who is suffering from mild dementia, wants, along with what Eddie, Edith's husband wants, is immaterial. It's so immaterial that Patricia (whom Eddie curiously calls 'Pam') gets the courts to appoint a guardian/conservator named Jessica Nielsen, who has never met or dealt with Edith.
It's believed that Patricia wants Edith out of the house and Eddie out of her mother's life so that she can sell the house and not be 'robbed of her inheritance'. Miss Edith does not want to move or leave Eddie, especially since Miss Edith insists that Patricia's husband abused her physically when she last was with them. However, one rainy night, in come Patricia and Jessica Nielsen, the latter most disinterested in what either Miss Edith or Eddie had to say. Ms. Nielsen refused to even entertain the idea that Miss Edith had any rights to herself, that Eddie was important, or in Miss Edith's stories about Pat's husband; as the rain got stronger, they shuffled Miss Edith off to the airport.
Not missing the flight was of greater concern than what Mr. and Mrs. Harrison thought.
One week after his wife was forcibly removed from her home, her husband could not reach her. Two weeks after his wife was forcibly removed from her home, her husband waits all day outside their house for her...and collapses.
Despite the prayers of their pastor, Eddie Harrison died, never having seen his wife again.
As far as we know, Miss Edith was not informed of her husband's passing, though Jessica Nielsen as guardian/conservator has custody over Mr. Harrison's remains.
A film like Edith + Eddie makes your blood boil at the injustice of it all: the greed of family members and the cruelty of those who are convinced they are better suited to decide what is best for someone without so much as asking the person affected. From what I saw, Edith and Eddie were a sweet little old couple who genuinely loved each other and were doing no one any harm.
They should not have been separated, and the separation was not only unnecessary, but especially cruel and vindictive towards two people in the finality of their lives.
There's no way around it: Jessica Nielsen comes across as a real bitch, and that is not a term I use loosely. We don't see her interact with either Edith or Eddie but we do hear the audio, and from the audio she is curt, almost arrogant in her manor with both of them. "You'll have devils under your bed," Eddie thunders at her as Nielsen pushes single-mindedly to remove his wife from him (or thunders as much as a 95-year-old man can). The couple kept their dignity in that neither begged or cried, but Nielsen would not hear Miss Edith's insistence that she did not want to go.
Moreover, Nielsen showed herself exceptionally condescending towards two people she had not met or apparently talked to until she forcibly separated a couple just married. She told them to consider the separation 'a vacation' while they sort out what didn't need sorting out.
I'll be blunt: I would have let Miss Edith and Mr. Eddie stay together, so long as someone was willing to care for them, which Rebecca and her family was, as was their church. I'd also say that Patricia was not interested in anything but money, though why she thought or could think a 95-year-old man could possibly 'steal' anything from her boggles the imagination.
I'll be more blunt: I have seen older people being taken advantage of even after death. I've known families who were so warped with greed that they pushed to have their parents buried in pauper's fields despite being able to afford a decent funeral because they simply did not want to spend money, even if split among the various relatives it would have been very little.
In short, we've all known a situation like that of Edith + Eddie.
It's this unvarnished portrait by director/editor/producer Laura Checkoway of two old people in love, torn apart physically for no reason except the idea that 'others know better' that makes Edith + Eddie such a terrible tragedy.
It is true: Miss Edith was suffering from mild dementia, but she was cared for and cared about deeply, most especially by her husband, who essentially died of a broken heart.
It's curious that the state (through Jessica Nielsen) and Patricia fought so hard to separate Edith and Eddie, using Miss Edith's mild dementia as the reason, while two women who looked and behaved far more irrationally were not only allowed to stay in their thoroughly run-down home but celebrated for their pretty bonkers behavior. I'm talking about another Edith & Edie: Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter and namesake, better known as Big & Little Edie from the infamous Grey Gardens. The Beales were frankly better candidates for the looney bin than either Miss Edith or Mr. Eddie.
Then again, both Edith Beale mere et fille were rich, while Miss Hill and Mr. Harrison were not. Wonder if that had anything to do with things.
I'm thankful I'm a Christian for many reasons. One of them is that, since I believe in an afterlife, I'm convinced that Eddie will be reunited with Miss Edith, and that Patricia or Jessica Nielsen will not be able to separate them when both reunite in the presence of God (though I pray both repent and beg their forgiveness). Yet I digress.
Edith + Eddie is a love story, a tragedy, a call to action to bring the issue of senior abuse and neglect to greater attention. Even with her mild dementia, Miss Edith was sharper than Patricia or Jessica Nielsen. "Love is one of the best things," she told her husband. "Love everybody, treat everybody right". She may not have been in the best of health, but it was Patricia and Jessica Nielsen who had dementia of the heart.
Truly, what harm could there have been to let two near-centenarians live out what time they had together, in peace, before they were called home?