What Roger Ebert Can Teach Us About Love

The happy couple (Photo by Getty Images)It's a sad day. Iconic film critic Roger Ebert passed away at age 70 after losing almost an 11-year battle with thyroid and salivary cancer. Just two days ago, he had written on his award-winning blog that his cancer had returned and he was taking a leave of absence to focus on revamping his new website with his wife of twenty years, Chaz. She had become the voice of Ebert since he lost his voice in 2006 due to complications from surgery and often tweeted updates to Ebert's fans, tickling them with photos of the couple's holidays and of Ebert when he was younger. Their marriage was a total romance—playful, inspiring, passionate. Here are 4 lessons they taught us about love:

Love means taking a chance:
Ebert met Chaz in the early 90s one night while he was out to dinner with Eppie Lederer, a.k.a. Ann Landers. In "Roger Loves Chaz", an essay he penned for the Chicago Sun-Times in 2012 on the couple's twenty-year anniversary (July 18th) he described spotting Chaz from across the room sitting with some mutual friends. "I liked her looks, her voluptuous figure, and the way she presented herself. She took a lot of care with her appearance and her clothes never looked quickly thrown together. She seemed to be holding the attention of her table," said Ebert. Determined to meet her, Ebert did some quick thinking, telling Landers that he had some friends that he "wanted her to meet." While everyone was distracted with introductions, Ebert asked for Chaz's number. When him and Eppie returned to their table, Eppie congratulated Ebert by saying, "You sly fox."

"For better or worse" aren't just wedding vows: Everyone says it, but how many mean it? When Ebert and Chaz got married, he told her that in 1987 he'd had a salivary tumor removed and was cleared of all cancer, but there was a chance it could return. When it did, Chaz didn't freak—she became what Ebert called his "staff of strength." He writes: "In the rehabilitations, she cheered me through every faltering step, and when I looked at a flight of three steps I was intended to climb, it was her will that helped me lift my feet. To visit a hospital is not pleasant. To do it hundreds of times is heroic." When Ebert was rehabilitating, Chaz got on him, making him exercise and eat right. "Chaz ordered me on my feet for morning and afternoon walks, with my caregivers trailing along behind me with a wheelchair. I'd go as far as I thought I could, and Chaz would unfailingly pick out a farther goal to aim for. She was relentless."

Sometimes it's best to give up control: While describing Chaz's unwavering support, Ebert said that at times, he resented her unceasing encouragement. However, he recognized that without her, he would have stayed at home in his favorite Relax-the-Back chair. So he let Chaz run the show, allowing her to care for him, booking appointments with physical therapists, forcing him to sit outside for 30 minutes a day to get the amount of vitamin D he needed. "But she was making me do the right thing," he said.

Relationships should also be partnerships:
Sure, one aspect of Ebert and Chaz' relationship was that they worked together (Chaz was the Vice President of the Ebert Company) but Chaz's professional role didn't hold a candle to how these two partners supported each other in marriage. When Ebert described her, he used phrases such as, "She had a particular quality," "She didn't seem to be a 'date' but an equal," "She seemed to be holding the attention of her table," and "You never get anywhere with a woman you can't talk intelligently with."

Rest in peace, Roger Ebert. And happy anniversary to you both!


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