I loved The Fighter, the movie about boxer Mickey Ward. I grew up in the town next to Lowell, Massachusetts; in fact, before the Industrial Revolution, Lowell had been part of my home town. So, when the movies opened with a scene from Cupples Square, I knew I had come home.
The portrayal of Mickey's large family was spot on, each representative of the many people who lived in Lowell -- the look, the talk, the attitude. For a long time, Lowell suffered from the collapse of the mills and from the economic despair that came with it. Yet the people of Lowell remained strong and loyal to each other. All of this was reflected in the film.
In a film marked by so many great performances, Melissa Leo and Christian Bale won awards for their portrayals of Mickey Ward's mother and brother, respectively. Alice Ward, Mickey's mother, came across as a fierce, protective, no-nonsense person who -- rightly or wrongly -- felt she had her son's best interest at heart.
Alice Ward died yesterday at age 79 after being taken off life support. She had suffered a massive heart attack early this year. A woman of limited resources, limited education, and limited opportunities, she did the very best she could for her family. "We have lost the leader of our family...She was a great woman, a strong woman. She taught us all what it means to be strong because she never gave up on any of us," her son Dicky said.
When any person dies, there is a hole in humanity: a hole that can only be filled by memories and by the actions of those the deceased affected. I suspect there is a large hole now where Alice Ward's life was; it is being filled by the love and respect of those who knew her personally and through a film that showed just how extraordinary people can be.
In a corner of my mind's eye, I can picture Alice Ward in Heaven, nonchalantly dropped f-bombs at the angels. And the angels smile knowingly and embrace her.