An old favorite movie is “The Imitation of Life”
I saw the 1959 version with my mother. We were both quite moved, especially a few specific heartbreaking scenes.
After losing her daughter at Coney Island, Lora, a widow and budding actress, seeks to find her daughter Susie. She is frantic, understandably so.
She eventually finds Susie eating ice cream, with another young girl, Sarah Jean. Sarah Jean’s mom, Annie was watching them. It is noteworthy that Annie is black and her daughter’s skin is light.
Lora actually thought Annie was Sarah Jean’s mammy and is surprised otherwise.
Annie is homeless and proposes to help Lora and her daughter. Lorna cannot pay her to help, but invites her to stay one night.
Annie was loving, selfless and patient and most of all had a great love for her daughter. She does allude to the color issue, talking to Lora, “How do you tell a child she was born to be hurt?”
She was black, but the father of her daughter was light colored. Annie says “She favors her father” (meaning in looks).
As Sarah Jean grows her anger and embarrassment at having a black mother escalated. She does not accept that she is black. She eventually runs away from home. She makes wrong choices and even gets a beating from a boyfriend when he finds out she is black.
Lora’s career takes off. Susie, in the meantime resents that she was always second best to her mother’s pursuit of a career. Annie ends up raising Susie as Lora pretty much rejected her
Years later, Annie realizes that Sarah Jean is working in a
scandalous place. She visits her daughter in the rooming house, saying that she just needed to see Sarah Jean to make sure she is OK. In this heartbreaking scene Sarah Jean venomously belittles her mother for coming. She yells “I am white!” Her mother however reiterates that she just want to see Sara Jean one more time. (Her health was deteriorating) She said that she cares for her and wants everything to be ok. She even asks Sarah Jean, that if she needed anything, would she be willing to contact Lora? (She knew her time was short)
As the mother is leaving the room, she tells her how much she loves her. Sarah Jean’s hard facade diminishes. She is conflicted and distressed. She starts to cry and as they hug, she whispers “Mama”
Her roommate came in, she said to Sarah Jean, after Annie left, “So honey chile’, you had a mammy?” Sarah Jean replies “Yes all my life”
Annie, eventually is bedridden and being cared for by Lora.
She dies of a broken heart and was given a funeral she requested. It involved a large crowd, gospel singers and a horse drawn funeral carriage.
Sarah Jean returns to town. She must have been informed of Annie’s death. Just as the Funeral procession was leaving, she runs after and falls on her mother’s casket crying “Mama…please forgive me!”
I feel that Annie represents the Love that the Lord has for us. We are His, “no matter what” He realizes that we will have to go through hard times (being in this world but not of this world). In spite of how much we reject Him, spew anger at Him, and try to run away from Him…His love remains the same.
When we go astray, He goes after us, trying to woo us back Home. We can still be filled with rebellion and reject His overtures of Love.
We can be like the Prodigal who went to live out on His own. His father (our Father) knows where that will end up, but I have often thought “In LOVE…the father let him go”…He never forces us to stay.
However, deep within her heart, Sarah Jean loved her mother. She just went so far away…she may have not known how to get back.
Lora to me represents a person with selfish ambitions. Pursuing a dream, in and of itself, is not wrong, but she sacrificed her daughter on the altar of self. Her daughter suffered.
I think it was honorable that Annie stepped in to raise Susie, but what I thought of was the term that is thrown around recently “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” Like so many things, on the surface, it could sound good, but I don’t want my children or grandchildren or nieces and nephews to be “raised” by a society that has very different views than I do. For the most part hate God and hate Christian values.
Of course, God doesn’t die with a broken heart in the way we understand, but it IS broken and poured out with a Love that is true.
In essence you could say the life, in the natural, without God, is truly an Imitation of Life.