How Nora Ephron Died

The Manhattan writer maintained her wit to the end

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 10, 2013 4:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – Nora Ephron maintained a death-defying wit in her final days, breaking down only once—when she accepted "a brutal form of chemotherapy," writes her son Jacob Bernstein in a touching New York Times Magazine piece. Having overcome a blood disorder, the writer of When Harry Met Sally and I Feel Bad About My Neck was diagnosed with leukemia—or, as she put it, "a little health crisis." The always-fashionable Manhattan figure finally cried, in part "because she was certain Christopher Hitchens had done no such thing, and she was devastated," writes Bernstein. "It terrified me to see her cry like that."

During her six years of illness, Ephron wrote a play that explored the courage of real-life journalist Mike McAlary, who won the Pulitzer Prize the year he died of colon cancer. And she kept up a brave wit as she deteriorated, making quips like "I'm not dead yet" and ordering "a de Kooning" from friends going to the Guggenheim. "As she ran out of time, she chose not to acknowledge, at least explicitly, what was happening to her," writes Bernstein. She even organized her own memorial and set speeches at 5 minutes maximum. Days before slipping into a coma, surrounded by family, she popped awake when her other son said he was sorry for having so many tattoos. "You. Aren’t. Really," she said, eyebrows raised, and dozed back off. (Click for the full article.)

Nora Ephron poses for a photo at her home in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010.
Nora Ephron poses for a photo at her home in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010.   (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
This Nov. 3, 2010 file photo shows author, screenwriter and director Nora Ephron at her home in New York.
This Nov. 3, 2010 file photo shows author, screenwriter and director Nora Ephron at her home in New York.   (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, file)
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