Roger Ebert's Wife, Chaz, Opens Up About His Final Moments

Season 5 Episode 515
Aired on 10/10/2015 | CC tv-14
In 2002, legendary film critic Roger Ebert was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which later spread to his salivary glands and jaw. With his wife, Chaz, by his side, Roger endured surgery after surgery, and the cancer eventually took Roger's voice. In 2006, he was forced to leave his famed television show after more than 30 years on the air, but he continued to review films in writing.

In February 2010, in what would be his final interview on the Oprah Show, Roger appeared with Chaz to share how he was living out his final years. Three years later, on April 4, 2013, Roger lost his battle with cancer.

Chaz, his wife of more than 20 years, says she's finally starting to feel like herself again. "In the beginning, it was rough," she says. "I was walking and talking and doing everything I needed to do, but I was—my head was in a space that felt so surreal because he had been such a big part of my life."

Roger spent the final months of his life in the hospital, and on the day he died, Chaz says he was actually scheduled to be released. "He was really happy that morning, and he was smiling. I whispered in his ear, 'We're going home,' and he wrote, 'Home?' and gave me the thumbs up," she says. "I walked out of the room to let the nurses help him get dressed, and I went back in just to ask him a question. He looked at me and he smiled, and he put his head down."

At first, Chaz says she thought Roger was meditating, but when the doctors rushed in, she realized it was the end. "It was time for me to let him go, and I didn't want to do it at first. I asked them to resuscitate him, and they said no because he had signed that 'do not resuscitate' order," she says. "It was the right thing to do, to just let him go peacefully."

Watch as Chaz shares how she's honoring Roger's legacy by educating and inspiring young writers and filmmakers.