Chaz Ebert on Life Without Roger

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Chaz Ebert at a tribute to her late husband, Roger Ebert. (Timothy Hiatt/Getty)

Don’t call Chaz Ebert a widow. She’s Roger’s wife. Since his death in April of 2013, she says she still feels his presence. She knows it sounds a little crazy, but she says they still communicate in their own way.

There was always magic in their relationship. She admits that their partnership was unlikely. He was a white, Catholic film critic and television star who'd been a life-long bachelor. She was a black lawyer and mother with a proud history as a civil rights activist. They first met after an AA meeting, and their connection was instant. Whatever hang-ups about personal history or race she may have had, she knew she loved Roger Ebert.

When they married in 1992, she left her law practice to manage his business dealings. After he was diagnosed with cancer in 2002, she also became a full-time caretaker, buoying him through years of treatments, setbacks, and recovery. His lower jaw was removed in 2006, and Roger eventually lost the ability to eat solid food, and to speak. He continued writing and reviewing movies, and when he asked her, Chaz spoke for him. 

Now, she’s touring the country talking about Roger and the documentary about him, Life Itself. She spoke to me about mourning her husband in public, and the presence he still has in her life today. 


What happened when Roger lost his ability to speak:

Almost nothing, because Roger and I developed almost a mental telepathy. We were so in tune with each other that we actually could speak to each other without words or without even being in the same room . . . And I know that happens—sometimes when he was in the hospital, I would wake up in the middle of the night, and I would call the hospital and I would say, oh my God, he is so cold. Would you please go in and put the warming blanket on him? And the nurse would come back and go, how do you know? Did he call you? And they would say, he couldn’t call you. He can’t speak. And I said, I don’t know, but he just told me it was cold.

How she still feels Roger in her life:

He still talks to me. Yeah, he does....It’s very comforting, because he lets me know that he’s okay. He’s more than okay. He is blissful. It is so reassuring, It just makes me smile to know that he is this...I don’t know what he is. I don’t know what form we’re in. But I know that it’s something that’s comforting. And it feels so natural and so normal, and I know that there are a lot of things that we shut down talking about in our society, things that we can’t prove. But now I firmly, firmly believe in an afterlife.

How sobriety helped their relationship from the beginning:

I tell you, I think it was a gift, because when you are someone who is sober and you’re very grateful for being sober, you realize, that’s a process that increases your compassion for other people. It really helps you to minimize the small talk, and you’re more willing to talk more openly and honestly with someone about the things that are important in life. And so, when Roger and I first met, I think we fell right into a conversation that turned out to be our lifelong conversation with each other.

You can read a full transcript of our interview, and see the documentary Life Itself in select theaters or on demand. Here's a preview:


    Music Playlist
  1. When You're Away
    Artist: Kenneth J Brahmstedt, BMI
  2. "Through the Night"
    Composer: Kenneth J Brahmstedt, BMI
    Artist: Kenneth J Brahmstedt, BMI
    Album: BWN Catalog
  3. "Quiet Horizon"
    Composer: Daniel Jensen, BMI
    Artist: Daniel Jensen, BMI
    Album: BWN Catalog


Chaz Ebert

Hosted by:

Anna Sale

Comments [12]

Patty from California

I love, love your podcast, it makes my commute so much easier. I cried listening to Chaz Ebert, I understood completely what she was saying, as if she was telling my story.......

Feb. 21 2015 01:22 AM

I have completely fallen in love with the both of them!

Jan. 08 2015 03:29 AM
Solomon from New York City

Thoroughly admirable from every aspect.

Jan. 06 2015 07:55 PM
Megan from Austin, TX

This was so timely for me. I'm starting a relationship with exactly the same age difference as Chaz and Roger when they met--me 39, him 50. We share a deep connection and our age difference has never been an issue except in my fear of losing him too early (he's perfectly healthy). It's actually made me consider having children with him, even though I never planned to have them before, so that I would always have a part of him.

Sep. 23 2014 02:09 PM
Huntinfalls from Houston, Texas

I LOVE your podcast. I truly enjoyed Chaz Ebert and I loved the fact you do ask different questions. Keep up the great work!!!!!!!

Sep. 10 2014 01:33 PM
Marcia from New Mexico

Chaz and Roger had a unique relationship, that's for sure.
Please, Anna Sale, discontinue the use of the term "caretaker".... having been there and done that with my late husband, the preferred term is "careGIVER".
Thank you.

Sep. 08 2014 11:10 PM
Rebecca H. from Colorado

Thank you for being brave enough to say it, Chaz.

Sep. 06 2014 05:00 PM
Sharon Cornett from Spokane, Wa.

Thanks for reinforcing my belief in some kind of afterlife. There are too many people having similar experiences for it to be a coincidence. That you can get comfort from feeling Roger near and that he is a constant presence is so wonderful! Please keep speaking and writing on this subject because we all need hope and faith that this life is not all there is.

Sep. 06 2014 12:04 AM
Howell from The Bronx

Very touching indeed. What stayed with me was when she mentioned that how they met eliminated the need for "on the surface" discussion and the moved straight to the important stuff. Maybe they knew that they only had a limited amount of time.

Sep. 03 2014 09:08 PM
random listener from Westchester


Sep. 03 2014 07:31 PM
Sara from SLC, UT

Thank you Chaz for saying it!!

Aug. 30 2014 09:41 PM

What a great interview! Such a touching and important story--the strength of their love, as well as the on-going communication, which reflects that. I have also experienced communication with people who have died. At first I resisted believing it, but once you know it's true, it creates a revolution in your life, and all for the good.

Aug. 27 2014 10:25 PM

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