Executive Producer Q&A
Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz and Alexandra Lipsitz
& Miggi Hood (Co-Executive Producer)
Q: Please tell us about how this project came to be. After achieving highly successful fashion (Project Runway, Fashion Star) and food (Top Chef) show franchises, what made you want to take on such a heavy subject like death and dying?
Dan Cutforth: The show was originally pitched as a show about families coming together over the death bed. Through development and outreach it turned into a documentary series about people and their families facing the final months and days before death. The topic of death at first glance seems like a million miles away from fashion and food, and certainly the tone of our other series are quite different, however food and clothing like death are universal, everyone has a relationship with them, they are a part of everyday life yet no one talks about death. The subject of death is one that Americans avoid more than most cultures and we felt like it was important to open a dialogue about it. Many of the hospice workers we spoke to felt that if people discussed their thoughts about death and dying more it wouldn’t be such a terrifying prospect. The experience of producing this show has been one of the most profound and meaningful of our career and we hope that we communicate and create that experience for the viewers as well.
Alexandra Lipsitz: I have always appreciated the Elves ability to explore any subject with grace, dignity and creativity. I personally faced this project with respect and a bit of fear, as I have never been present for anyone’s death. I have lost people close to me but I was somewhat removed physically and emotionally. I wanted to be able to confront and understand my own feelings about dying and losing the people I loved. I hope this series helps others to do this, as well.
Miggi Hood (Co-Executive Producer): In October 2010, I brought "Time Of Death" to the Magical Elves production company. My idea for a documentary about the end of life was inspired by my powerful personal experience of familial reconciliation and drama during my Mother's final dying days. It was then tentatively titled, “Dying To See You.” For the next two years, I researched death and dying and sought out and interviewed people who had interesting stories relating to that fascinating and concentrated period of life when someone has been given a shortened life prognosis. I kept the project alive as it were and in August 2012, we showed SHOWTIME some interviews and they ordered the series.
Q: Tell us a bit about these remarkable people featured in the series.
AL: Each person that I encountered in this series was incredibly brave and forthcoming. Their families were at times a little wary of opening their doors to us at first, but after a few visits and sometimes only hours we were usually embraced as a friend or family member. Maria was the first person I met. Her sense of humor and love of life and her kids was striking. This was a woman to be admired and loved. She faced amazing obstacles with honesty, tears and laughter. Though she spent much of her time cleaning and yelling at her kids to clean up, Maria showed me how hard it is to fight for your life. She was a warrior and never gave up. Her children, Little, Julia and Andrew, are full of her fire and personality. In the series, they shared how hard it is to lose your mom when you are young. For the kids, it was never easy and sometimes so painful I felt helpless. I learned from this family that you can only hope for your kids that they will live beyond you and live well. I have never experienced anything like this in my career and I feel honored to have known them.
Michael was a man who seemed fearless. He managed to have an understanding and acceptance of the dying process. He loved his parents and as he lay dying made peace with this world. His relationship with his father is heartbreaking, poignant and inspiring.
The Leffers are an amazing family. Lenore was an expert in grief and dying because she was a therapist who helped people process their own deaths and grief. She said she wanted to do this as the final exploration in her work -- to understand and share with others how it is to die.
Cheyenne was a fascinating man. As he lay in his bed paralyzed and only able to speak through a keyboard, he would look at me and he’d get this devilish smile. Like he understood the meaning of it all but he didn’t have time to use his eyes to tell it to me. He hated when you finished his sentences too and he was a big flirt. Cheyenne was the embodiment of someone who lived hard and not always right but tried to clean it up in the end. His beloved family and Ruth are amazing and their story is so unique it shouldn’t be missed.
Toni’s poetic and kind nature was enchanting. This is a love story. To watch a woman saying goodbye to her partner and to understand death is inescapable and can take you at any time no matter how you live your life. Toni shows us to make the most of the moments you have.
Brad was a kind man that we only had a very short time with but in that time he said something so striking: he was resigned to death – he had made his peace. As he stood surrounded by his loving wife and kids he could be ready to leave. He had found acceptance. It was a moment that gave us goosebumps.
Laura told me she believed the day she was meant to die was decided by God so there was no use fighting it. She chose not take extraordinary measures and to go on a road trip. Her daughter Lisa was by her side and it’s quite a trip. Lisa told us no one can prepare you for watching a parent die.
Nicolle and her amazing family: Vicki, Tom, Cyndi, Delylah, Cordelia, Grandma, Big T and Tiffany will always be in my heart and I will know and love them for many years to come. We were with Nicolle every day and night of her last month on earth. She was very young and to witness how a young person dies and how a family lets go of a child is profound. The Kissee family will show you how to be with your loved one when they die. Nicolle never wanted to be forgotten and her being a part of this series ensures that.
Q: Tell us a bit about the selection process. How were the families chosen?
DC: The selection process was a very intense, sensitive process that took almost a year and half. It takes a very brave person and a very giving family to open their hearts and their minds and to let us in to document the most personal moment of their life. We are so thankful to everyone who did take this journey with us. We wanted to make sure that we showed a cross-section of people with totally different lives and totally different stories because death does affect everyone. So we had different ages, sexes, religions, races and people who were in a good place at the time of their death and people who were desperately struggling to come to terms with the complicated life they had lived.
Q: How were these compelling stories captured? Were you embedded with the families full-time?
AL: We had really small crews, everyone was hands on and we became a very tight-knit family. The producers were the camera operators and confidantes of the family and the dying. We had to gauge the wishes of the person: who was invited and when varied. With some, we visited a few days at a time over a long period, others we were with day and night until the end.
Q: What would compel someone in the final stages of life to agree to be filmed? What was the motivation for those featured in the documentary? How receptive were their families to participating?
AL: Different people did it for different reasons. Families wanted to share how remarkable their loved ones were, people wanted to make this sad inexplicable moment worth something. People wanted to help others who are experiencing the same thing. People want to be remembered. People wanted to finally confront on a public level what so many people don’t want to acknowledge: we are all going to die.
Q: Tell us about the healthcare and hospice workers on the show. Was their input helpful to the process?
DC: Aside from helping us find the families who are in the documentary, the hospice and healthcare professionals gave us input that was invaluable. They gave us incredible insight into the dying process and tried to prepare us for what was to come. One of our hospice workers Laurel (Lewis) actually came to our offices on a regular basis to counsel the producers and editors working on the show because the experience of producing this series was very intense for everyone. They are the unsung heroes of our society.
AL: The doctors, nurses and hospice workers I met were so kind and helpful. I remember meeting a hospice nurse when we started this and she said to me that they would offer our crew support too during this process. I didn’t understand at the time what was coming our way, how we would become involved and eventually grieve for the dying person and the family. Anyone who shows up to help people through this part of life are truly inspired human beings.
Q: What did working on TIME OF DEATH personally teach you about death and dying? Has anything you’ve experienced affected your own lives?
JL: While we were filming TIME OF DEATH, Alexandra and I experienced the loss of our step-brother who lost his battle with cancer. It was an incredibly intense experience to be immersed in the lives of families and individuals facing death and loss while going through the same experience ourselves. It definitely gave me perspective and a deeper connection to the stories we were telling, having a parallel experience, and it all just reminds you to pay attention to the things that are important. I definitely never let a day go by where I don’t give my son a big hug and a kiss and make sure he knows I love him before he goes to school.
AL: I have learned to make a will and then I didn’t do it! So put that on my to-do list. I learned to use hospice and if I get a death sentence I would probably choose quality vs quantity. I learned how important it is to show up when people are alive as well as dying and not to forget to be with whoever is grieving afterwards. I know I would want a pain-free death and that it is possible to some extent. I also became aware of how the world is changing, with thousands of Baby Boomers retiring every month and healthcare trying to adjust how it deals with end-of-life care and this huge influx of people needing care. The business of dying is growing and more people are thinking about dying than ever before. This program is a sign of that. This affects me because I need to think how I will deal with the loss of parents and family and my own end. It’s an issue that affects every aspect of my life: physically, mentally and spiritually.
Q: Do you have any advice for people who may be faced with this difficult situation or family members who might be struggling with having a loved one whose death is imminent? What are some coping mechanisms they can utilize?
AL: There is support and it’s important to ask for HELP!!! Find a local hospice if you have good insurance -- it might cover 24-hour care. Ask lots of questions and when in hospitals make sure you have a good healthcare advocate, someone you trust. Share the Care is a book that helps plan how people can create a community of support; The Caring Bridge and other sites like it are a way to keep people informed and to lend emotional support to the dying person and families. Find a spiritual support and use social workers to help straighten up affairs. There are food services that bring meals to people who are sick. Check your area for this service so you can get good, healthy food that you don’t have to labor to cook. Be honest with your friends and family; give people the opportunity to grieve with you before you die. I heard a nurse share this with her patient how it helped when she could tell her mom she was going to miss her before she was gone. At the same time, be careful not to burden the dying with your own problems if they don’t have the energy. I witnessed how exhausting it is to make this final journey and how loud noise or bright light can really affect a person. Basically, be present and loving for each other.
MH: My advice is the same as that which I hope people will take away from the series. That is - be prepared for the death of a loved one by being present and selfless in life. The advice I would give would be to give people advice at the start of their lives. In other words, educate. Do not wait until you are dealing with death to deal with it - deal with life. Do not indoctrinate the young with myth. I hope that this series will touch people and make them focus on the importance of life. I have always said that the series is about life not death.
Q: What do you hope people will take away from the series?
JL: We hope that people begin to talk to their friends and family members about their thoughts and their fears about death. We hope that people think about what they want their death to look like and make plans for that but most importantly we hope people spend a lot of time talking about life and love and friends and think about what’s important to them. We hope people try to take a moment and not take things for granted.
AL: I hope people will find some answers to their questions. It is a scary territory we have entered. People don’t want to die or lose their loved ones; yet we all do it. Why is it so hard? If we open our minds and experience it and don’t deny it maybe it is easier to live more fully. After a shoot day, I usually found myself appreciating the sunset or a vista, coming home and hugging my baby, calling my mom back. I guess that’s what I hope most of all is that people will appreciate their lives and have a deeper understanding of what happens as you die.
Laurel Lewis, Hospice Worker, Series Consultant
BSN, RN, MA • Coach, Consultant, Transition Specialist
Q: What drew you to hospice care? Tell us what it’s like to work with these brave people who are facing imminent mortality and how you care for them and the process/methodology of hospice.
A: I always wanted to be a hospice nurse but when I first graduated from nursing school in 1994, I thought hospice nurses were experienced and old; and I was neither. I thought I would become a hospice nurse much later in my career. Then in 1998 my husband went to work one night and never came home. He died in his helicopter on a stateside training mission. Two days after his death, I knew when I went back to work it would be as a hospice nurse. And I did.
Hospice work is incredibly challenging and equally rewarding. I get the privilege of going into peoples’ homes and guiding them through the process of death and dying. It is intimate, real and raw. Being a good hospice worker requires patience, specialized knowledge, compassion, non-judgment, flexibility, and an ability to translate sometimes unbearable conversations into something palatable. I often say to patients and families that if we are doing a good job then we are neither getting ahead of the patient nor falling behind in their process but going right alongside them at their own natural pace. The hospice philosophy is to neither prolong life nor to hasten death. Walking this path is often precarious! We have to be prepared to face anything; physical issues out of control, spiritual crisis, emotional and mental breakdowns and sometimes unhealthy and unsafe living environments. The general public seems to be unaware of all of the death that is happening ~ in every neighborhood someone is facing their end!
Q: How did you come to meet the producers of TIME OF DEATH? What made you want to participate in the series? What was some of the advice you gave them?
A: I met [TIME OF DEATH Co-Executive Producer] Sandy Shapiro when she came to my hospice company sussing out the idea of this documentary. I was the first RN hired by the company and often was pulled into such meetings which involved potential community impact. Sandy had an empty yellow legal pad and a lot of wonderful questions about hospice and the work. Sandy and I talked several times about what might be possible as far as working with this hospice company and I always felt like she had an amazing grasp on what we do and wanted to honor the work and show the world what really happens around death and dying. I am always interested in being a part of anything that is going to help educate people about death and dying. I was excited and happy to help.
I gave them advice about the disease process for some of the people they were filming. Oftentimes they were trying to figure out a timeline, not unlike the families members who ask the same questions: "When is he going to die?" "What should we expect?" I spoke with them about family dynamics and what was "normal" in the dying process. Which is pretty much anything and everything! My advice ranged from very detailed medical information and education to actually consulting behind the scenes as a spiritual counselor for the crew who was filming the death and dying!!! This brought up a lot of issues for the staff who had been used to filming reality TV. So I offered counsel to help them cope with what was coming up for them as they shot and edited the footage. Most people choose not to look at this topic until they have to. This crew had to look at it, which was intense for most of them. But now, after contemplating death and their own mortality, they have shifted their feelings around the topic; which is ultimately the end goal of the show itself!
Q: Are there any interesting stories you can share about your time as a hospice worker? Any interesting families or situations come to mind?
A: I have fallen in love with more than a few of my patients. I still am in touch with several families that made their way into my heart. The stories that come to mind are the most painful deaths I've witnessed and the most beautiful and loving ones! I imagine that's how it is when we reflect on our lives too. The best of times and the worst of times stick out in the mind.
I remember one patient who died at the breakfast table with his fork in hand. When I arrived at the house, his son was at his side propping him up. We picked him up and laid him on the couch and waited for the mortuary to come get him. That was strange and kind of wonderful. He died at the table with his wife and son with no pain while enjoying a simple pleasure. One of my favorite patients, whom I cared for for nearly a year with lung cancer, turned 90 while under hospice care. I blurred the boundaries with her and took her out for lunch to the Lobster, a famous Santa Monica restaurant, one of her favorites. We shared a cocktail and lunch and then I took her to our hospice office where we had a little surprise party for her. She said it was the only party anyone ever threw for her! 90 years old! She wore a hat and blew out candles. She "held court" and answered all kinds of curious questions about her life! It was precious. She died later that year and her son told me that he put a picture of she and I together in her casket. I was very honored and incredibly tearful. I love her still. My entire life has been shaped by working with people who are dying and with the people who love them. Everyone should be so blessed!
Q: Do you have any advice for people who may be faced with this difficult situation or family members who might be struggling with having a loved one whose death is imminent? What are some coping mechanisms they can utilize? Is there anything they should or should not do?
A: Most of the advice I give these days is about being a loving presence. Dying people will let you know what they need with either their bodies or with words. Learning how to listen deeply with care, compassion, non-judgment and acceptance is what most dying people need. Dying people are facing their own unique journey. They are contemplating things that we cannot comprehend. Our role is to be present if they want us there, to listen, to love and to clear our own issues out of the way so that we can honor their needs. Oftentimes people project their own unresolved issues onto the dying person. I see this more often than not. If you have issues around the topic, talk to someone about it, don't lay it on the dying person to deal with, they have enough. If you are feeling challenged, confused, angry, scared, disconnected, over-responsible, overwhelmed, isolated, vulnerable, irritated ~ then you are NORMAL! Be aware of your experience and know that it is temporary. Your emotions, your feelings, your physical issues, the patient's process...it's ALL temporary! It will change, eventually. Realizing that death is a process, not unlike birth, sometimes helps people cope with what is happening. Take care of yourself, your body, your emotions. Ask for help. Get support. Be gentle with yourself and others. Educate yourself. Breathe! Be kind to yourself and if you have emotions to release be mindful of when and where you release them. Honor yourself and be respectful of the dying as well. Take time out to be outside, or to write down your thoughts, or call a friend to vent to. Eat as well as you can and limit your intake of substances that alter your consciousness. Numbing out is a way most Americans cope with stress. There is support for you as you go through this, you don't need to numb the pain. There are gifts to be found during and after the process if we are willing to courageously face death.
Q: What do you hope people will take away from TIME OF DEATH?
A: I hope that people will watch this show and consider their own relationship with death and dying. Is it a healthy one? If not, what can change? If so, great. Get out there and LIVE your life full-out until you’re complete! I hope people develop a healthy relationship to death and dying so that the confusion, fear, doubt, rage, anger, unnecessary treatments that often accompany death will dissipate as people become more open and educated about what's possible with a good death! I hope it will create a dialogue for people to share with their friends and families about life, death, what they do and don't want for themselves. Talking about challenging topics is often very intimidating but can lead to great intimacy and connection; and that can feel very good and worthwhile!
101 – Maria & Michael
Maria, a single mother of three who is nearing the end of her fight against stage IV breast cancer, awaits the results of her latest CAT scan to see if treatments are effective. Meanwhile, her 25 year-old daughter, Little, steps up to become the guardian of her underage half-siblings, but can she navigate the legal maze to finalize Maria’s wishes before it’s too late? After a short fight with a devastating cancer, Navy vet Michael is staring death in the face and not backing down. With his parents by his side, he confronts his greatest regret – the end of his relationship with the love of his life.
102 – Maria & Lenore
Maria is excited about a new clinical trial, but her children are alarmed when radiation treatments to her brain begin affecting her physical and mental capacities. With a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, Lenore, herself a death and dying psychotherapist, prepares to say goodbye to her husband of 53 years, her sons and grandchildren.
103 – Maria & Cheyenne
After Maria’s car accident, Little struggles in her new role as primary caretaker of both her mom and two younger siblings. In the advanced stages of ALS, Cheyenne, who communicates now using only his eyes and a computer, seeks redemption for past transgressions and a reunion with his mother and two sons who he’s never known.
104 – Maria & Toni
Maria’s family is pushed to its breaking point with a surprise visit from Jim, her ex and the father of Julia and Andrew. As a public health advocate who has devoted her career to preventing cancer, it feels like the ultimate irony for Dr. Toni Yancey to receive a lung cancer diagnosis. With her partner Darlene by her side, Toni reconciles that she won’t have more time to help others and be an example to their young granddaughter.
105 – Maria, Laura & Brad
With her two teenagers now in foster care and their ultimate custody still unresolved, Maria heads to court with Little determined to prevail in the final showdown with the kids’ father. Laura and daughter Lisa, forced by metastatic cancer to move cross-country, are on a big road trip and determined to have as much fun as possible in Laura’s remaining time. Brad is resigned to death, but his loving wife Verda of 49 years is not ready and left speechless when his final wish is revealed.
106 – Maria & Nicolle
After Maria’s death, will Little finally get permanent custody of her siblings and bring them home from foster care once and for all? Nineteen year-old Nicolle isn’t ready to stop fighting in her battle against stage IV melanoma while frequent hospitalizations have the large extended family at her side fearful that they won’t be able to honor her wish to die.
MARIA LENCIONI (August 8, 1964 - April 17, 2013)
Maria Lencioni, 48, was a single mother of three with stage four breast cancer living near Santa Cruz, CA, in rural Soquel. Born August 8, 1964, in the South Bay area of San Francisco, Maria grew up with her only sibling, her brother Mark “Bubba” Lencioni, in Sunnyvale, CA. At 17, she relocated to Lake Tahoe, but soon found herself moving to the east coast with her first child, Nicole (“Little”), in tow. A new and fleeting marriage ten years later saw the addition of two more children to her life, Julia and Andrew. Maria, “Little”, Julia, and Andrew lived in New Hampshire, Vermont and Boston, before moving back to Santa Cruz, CA, in 2000. Once she was diagnosed, Maria was the first to admit that being a single mom and not having health insurance became somewhat of a death sentence: what could have been a treatable tumor in her breast had already spread numerous places in her body. To Maria, it was important to remain strong and not to surrender to the prognosis; she still had two young kids to raise. Maria went through over a hundred rounds of chemo. Little, now in her mid-20s, left her life in Los Angeles to help her mom and siblings. She did her best to help her mother despite Maria’s unrelenting determination to live and be independent. Little now does her best to guide Julia and Andrew in their mother’s absence.
MICHAEL JOHN MUTH (September 23, 1965 - November 27, 2012)
A veteran with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer affecting the connective tissues in muscles, Michael Muth faced the end with his parents by his side. Michael graduated from Westminster High School, after which he served 12 years in the Navy and went on to work for Atlas CopCo in Southern California. He joined the Navy at 17 years old and credits the military with saving his life – saying the path out of his high school wasn’t leading anywhere pretty. Michael was described as a straight shooter, and in the short three months from his diagnosis until his death, he dealt with it all up front. And by the end – he was ready. He wanted to go. The love of his life – first wife, Andrea – graced his last hours with her soothing hand and agreement on the past being kept in the past.
LENORE LEFER (March 18, 1938 – April 19, 2013)
A psychotherapist in the field of death and dying, Lenore Lefer was a 75-year-old wife, mother and grandmother with inoperable pancreatic cancer. She died peacefully at home. Born in the Bronx, NY, Lenore was a psychotherapist and group leader for more than 40 years and taught both in the U.S. as well as internationally. In the last 25 years, she also used her remarkable skills in the field of death and dying, both as Co-Leader of the Cancer Help Program at Commonweal, as well as at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in the Washington DC area. She called it the best work of her life. It is because of Lenore’s lifetime of work in the field that she decided not to medically treat her cancer. She had seen first-hand how devastating treatment to extend life can be not only to her, but how devastating it can be to family to watch the debilitating effects of the harsh drugs involved. To her the “cure” could more brutal than the disease. Lenore was married for 52 years to her husband, Mel Lefer. They had three children -- Josh, Matt, who is married to Daniella and they have three children. Lenore and Mel’s middle son, Jason, died at the age of 15 in a drowning accident. Over the course of the 52 years they spent together, Mel and Lenore actually split and divorced for a time.
CHEYENNE BERTILONI (May 30, 1965 – February 22, 2013)
Diagnosed with ALS in March, 2009, Cheyenne was a 47-year-old former MMA fighter fighting to maintain a quality of life with a new girlfriend at his side while reuniting with his long-estranged mother and two sons. Cheyenne was born “William L. Kimball” in Bremerhaven, Germany. From diagnosis in early 2009, he lived with the debilitating effects of ALS. He is survived by two sons, Christopher, 25 and Brandon, 18, his mother Nancy Bell, two sisters Carla Powell and Melissa Rolison and nine nieces and nephews. He passed peacefully in Santa Monica, his home of 30 years, with his companion Ruth Quevedo at his side. Cheyenne was an MMA fighter for several years winning 11 of his 12 fights. In addition, he was involved in real estate and investments and loved the world of entrepreneurship. After being estranged for decades as Cheyenne went his own way at 15 following his father’s death, he and his mother had a tearful reunion once his diagnosis could no longer be ignored. His mom then helped him find the two sons he did not know. From the chair and bed that became his world, Cheyenne communicated through an eye-operated computerized voice, but his will to continue living and having relationships seemed to hold sway with all those in his life.
DR. ANTRONETTE YANCEY (November 1, 1957 – April 23, 2013)
A 55-year-old public health advocate and professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health with lung cancer, Dr. Antronette “Toni” Yancey was a physician committed to championing strategies to increase physical activity. Surrounded by her partner of 11 years, their daughter and granddaughter, Toni was a poet, author and former model and basketball player. Toni was diagnosed with lung cancer on February 13th, 2012; her prognosis was two weeks to two months. During surgery, it was discovered that her cancer had already metastasized around her heart. Toni devoted her career to improving the health of vulnerable populations and eliminating health disparities. A passionate advocate of healthy living through physical fitness, Toni was widely known for creating "Instant Recess," a unique program dedicated to "making America healthier 10 minutes at a time." Her idea of incorporating brief bouts of physical activity into people's daily routine, whether at school, work or worship, earned her numerous awards, including the 2012 Pioneering Innovation Award from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She was one of a handful of national thought leaders asked to serve on the board of directors of the Partnership for a Healthier America, the nonprofit that guided First Lady Michelle Obama's “Let's Move” campaign. Toni co-founded the Fielding School's UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity, through which she championed the cause of social justice. She made change happen in countless ways, from advocating for policy change and cajoling employers to allow their staffs to engage in "Instant Recess" on paid time, to serving as a role model for countless minority students and pounding the pavement in the community to connect on a personal level with the people she served.
LAURA KOVARIK (May 14, 1949 - April 21, 2013)
The Laura Kovarik raised two daughters on her own. Younger daughter Lisa dropped everything to care for her ailing but ever-high-spirited mother following her diagnosis with breast cancer, leading to a last road trip. Laura, an accountant with a theater company for 26 years, a single mom who put her two children through private school in Long Beach, CA died at age 63 in her younger sister’s home in Colorado Springs, CO. Laura’s fondest memories from childhood were the road trips with her family. After her diagnosis and her decision not to fight it with chemo (her faith made her a big believer in quality of life over extending life for its own sake), and after she and Lisa each lost their job and were facing eviction, Laura and Lisa made the decision to take one last road trip to take Aunt Julie up on her offer to move in with her in Colorado Springs.
MORRIS BRADLEY JR. (November 22, 1934 - August 3, 2012)
A 22-year career military veteran, Morris “Brad” Bradley Jr., ever the caretaker of the family, became the cared-for as he succumbed to congenital heart failure brought on by a genetic blood disorder. He was buried with military honors, including a 21-gun salute. Brad graduated from Richmond High School in California and went on to earn an Associate Arts Degree from Los Angeles City College and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the California State University at Los Angeles. Brad enlisted in the US Air Force where he served as a Security Specialist and had top-secret clearance. Over 22 years, Brad was stationed around the world, including Britain, Japan, Thailand and Germany. He medaled as a sharp shooter and was once heard to say “I can shoot the eye of a fly at a hundred yards.” After commendations from the Air Force for exemplary service upon his retirement, Brad went on to work for Garrett Air Research and, later, Honeywell for 16 years. Brad married the love of his life, Verda. Together, they raised three children. By all accounts, Brad had a wonderful sense of humor, and the Bradley home would always be filled with joy and laughter. Brad volunteered at the Union Rescue Mission to feed the homeless and was devoted to his faith. He attended Bryant Temple AME Church where he served as a Trustee, was in the Men’s Choir and attended Sunday School and the Men’s Breakfast Meetings on a regular basis. Brad is survived by his wife, Dr. Verda Bradley, his three daughters, Wanda Bradley-Arnold, Betty Bradley Luckett and Eleanor Bradley Plummer. He also left behind seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
NICOLLE KISSEE (February 2, 1994 – July 13, 2013)
19-year-old Nicolle Alexandra Kissee had been diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma. Nicolle’s surrounded by her parents, grandparents, younger sisters and a large extended family. Nicolle resided in Mira Loma, California at the time of her passing. She loved music and she loved animals intensely. Before becoming sick, she very much wanted to be a veterinarian, though her experiences in treatment and with her care team led her to set sights on being a radiation oncologist. In her senior year, Nicolle received the Presidential Award for Academic Achievement. She was the Historian for her local FFA chapter. Nicolle loved to go to movies, especially midnight shows, to read and share books and to attend book launch parties; she loved game nights - especially movie and TV trivia games and Scattergories; she loved to play Wii games - Just Dance, Mario Kart, & Mario Party were a few favorites. She adored rollercoasters – her family had Disneyland passes since she was three and they went all the time. After graduating from Jurupa Valley High School, class of 2012, Nicolle studied for a time at Riverside Community College and worked at Petco as a dog groomer. She had been diagnosed with melanoma when she was 16 and doctor’s believed that surgery had gotten all the malignant cells, but the cancer returned and spread to Nicolle's lungs and brain. Though she knew she was “technically terminal” as she put it, Nicolle still talked about living a normal life, getting a job, having a boyfriend. She remained enormously positive throughout, loving to watch TV with her mom and hang out with her sisters and her three dogs.
Executive Producer Bios
Dan Cutforth – Executive Producer
Dan Cutforth was born and raised in England. He started his career at the BBC in 1990 as a researcher in the quaintly-named “Light Entertainment” department. He moved to independent production company Planet 24 to join the team that started up The Big Breakfast, an anarchic and influential morning show. In the mid-‘90s, Cutforth moved to New York to head up U.S. operations for Planet 24. While working there, he helped develop Survivor and produced The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show. After a six-month sojourn in the UK to re-launch and re-brand The Big Breakfast, Cutforth returned to the U.S. to produce two seasons of the primetime series Whose Line is it Anyway? before joining forces with Jane Lipsitz to create Bands on the Run for VH1.
Jane Lipsitz – Executive Producer
Jane Lipsitz grew up in New York City. She began her career in the music business, working first at ICM then at Polygram Diversified Entertainment, where she earned her stripes as a producer during the 40-hour television coverage of Woodstock. In the mid-‘90s, she was hired as an independent producer for VH1’s development department as the network was in the process of abandoning its programming diet of Dire Straits videos and ancient stand-up comedy to become one of the most influential and successful cable networks. By the time she left her position as Senior Vice President of Development and Production, she had developed, produced and overseen hundreds of shows including Pop Up Video, The List and Bands on the Run.
In 2001, Cutforth and Lipsitz founded Magical Elves and since then have been nominated for numerous Emmys, culminating in a win in 2010 for Outstanding Reality Competition for Top Chef. In 2008, they received a Peabody Award for Project Runway, the first reality show to be honored by the organization. Project Runway is one of four Magical Elves shows named by Entertainment Weekly in their list of the “20 Best Reality Shows of All Time” along with Top Chef, Bands on the Run and Project Greenlight. February 2011 saw the Magical Elves first major motion picture release, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. The film received critical acclaim and is currently the 3rd highest grossing documentary of all time. They followed that film up in 2012 with their directorial debut, Katy Perry: Part of Me. Other notable credits include NBC’s Fashion Star, Last Comic Standing and Treasure Hunters, SHOWTIME’s, The Real L Word, WeTV’s Braxton Family Values, and Around the World in 80 Plates, Gallery Girls, Work of Art, Top Chef Masters and Top Chef Just Desserts for Bravo.
TIME OF DEATH
TO CONNECT WITH SUPPORT - GENERAL
TO CONNECT WITH SUPPORT – IF YOU ARE LIVING WITH AN ILLNESS
TO CONNECT WITH SUPPORT – IF YOU ARE A CAREGIVER
TO CONNNECT WITH SUPPORT – IF YOU ARE GRIEVING
LISTS OF RECOMMENDED READING AND OTHER RESOURCES
HOW CAN I HELP? TO SUPPORT END-OF-LIFE WORK
HOW CAN I HELP? SUPPORT INDIVIDUALS/FAMILIES FROM THE DOCUMENTARY
ORGANIZATIONS & INDIVIDUALS THAT SUPPORTED THE MAKING OF THIS DOCUMENTARY SERIES