25 years later

Audrey at the seaIt’s 25 years ago today that Audrey Hepburn left us, and it’s hard to believe for many reasons. But at least she is still far from forgotten.

I know there are quite a few fans out there who weren’t even born when Audrey passed, and there are also quite a few who remember the day quite well. Then there were others, like me, who were alive then, but didn’t know about her, or were too young to remember what had happened. No matter where you are on that spectrum, you’re here now, and you remember her. We all remember and celebrate her in our own ways, and I’d like to share some of my ways, if you don’t mind.

Audrey in a ballet poseI like to remember that she survived the worst of what humanity could do to each other, but never gave up on people. If World War II had ended a week later, we most likely would never have known her. But luckily for her and for all of us, things turned out the way they did, and the little ballerina who swore, “if I survive this, I promise I’ll never complain again,” did in fact survive and prosper, and didn’t complain. Instead, she went to ballet school, and when that dream was crushed, she did whatever else she could to keep surviving, including modeling and acting bit parts in film.

 

Audrey laughing very hardI like to remember that she was in fact a lot goofier than most realize, and swore more than a little. When I watched Gardens of the World again at the end of last year, I watched some behind the scenes and outtake clips on the DVDs and she gleefully says “oh, it’s shit!” when a bird poops in the midst of an interview. One of my favorite pictures is of her and James Garner wearing daisies to lighten the mood during the filming of The Children’s Hour, which got rather heavy at times (Audrey had a daisy in her mouth). And then there’s this picture, where Audrey is laughing so hard at something she goes into derpy face territory. The magazines and promotional stills always show her most glamorous side, but she was just as real as the rest of us and, from what I’ve heard, was game for a dirty joke every now and then.

Audrey with a Somalian child

Most of all, though, I like to remember that she gave back. She remembered how UNRRA and the Red Cross had quickly moved in to Holland and brought life-saving medicines and supplies (and soldiers bearing chocolate!), saving her life. So when UNICEF approached Audrey – with some nudging from former James Bond, Roger Moore – to serve as a Goodwill Ambassador, Audrey jumped at the chance. She took numerous trips to raise awareness of children in need, children who reminded her all too well of her friends, family, and even herself during the worst of WWII. Up until cancer made her too weak and ill to continue to travel, Audrey continued pushing for the people in need around the world who had captured her heart. While the media was happy to spread pictures of her smiling with happy, healthy looking children from her trips, there were times when the hunger and plight of those she was visiting was etched all too clearly on her face, and she didn’t seem to want to hide it. Being in their place decades before made it too difficult to ignore, and stoked the passion in her heart even more. This was personal for her, which is what made her such an effective ambassador.

However you choose to remember her today and every day, I hope it reflects all of what made Audrey, Audrey.

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