Passing on the legacy
Terre Haute native Paul Fleschner, a filmmaker and book narrator, is inviting all to see his most recent piece of work.
The piece, so close to his heart, is a documentary more than seven years in the making.
A trailer for the film, called “Piercing the Veil,” may be accessed at www.piercingtheveil.com.
The documentary chronicles the final months of Larry Fleschner, former Terre Haute lawyer and Paul’s uncle. Larry Fleschner died in 2007. It details the family’s experience and response to Larry’s illness and suffering.
“It came about providentially when I was taking care of my uncle,” Paul said. “I was in my mid-20s in Los Angeles writing screenplays. My uncle had Stage 4 colon cancer so I moved back home to take care of him. He was almost like a second father to me. When he became very sick, I moved in with him.”
While caring for his ailing uncle, Paul – who received his collegiate degree from Duke University – heard from an old professor of his who suggested he film the experience.
“My uncle was open to it,” Paul said. “He was a business man with a lot of integrity. When he agreed to making this film, he wanted me to commit to finishing it. We ended up filming 100 hours of material.”
The Sisters of Providence, particularly Sister Marie Kevin Tighe and Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, play significant roles in the film.
“It was Mother Theodore who said, ‘Put aside all uneasiness about the future and place yourself gently into the hands of Providence,’” Paul states early on in the trailer.
Early in the trailer, there is a scene of Sister Marie Kevin, who died May 19, 2014, praying at the interim shrine for Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. Later in the trailer, Sister Marie Kevin is sitting with Larry discussing the journey of life.
“Birth, life, suffering, death, resurrection … we all go through the same steps, every single person,” Sister Marie Kevin says. “Sometimes, the suffering is longer for others. I think you’re sharing the suffering of Jesus right now in your life.”
Paul, a Terre Haute North High School graduate who currently lives in Chicago, said he converted to Catholicism when he was 18. While he was in college, he learned several family members were also going through the process of conversion.
“After I graduated, my uncle went through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at St. Patricks,” Paul said. “That is where he met Sister Marie Kevin. At that point, my uncle had Stage 2 cancer. He was in remission.”
Paul said Larry knew Sister Marie Kevin had battled cancer and he yearned for further discussion.
“As the story goes, he came up to her after a class and wanted to speak with Sister Marie Kevin about her suffering and how that intersects with her faith,” Paul said. “They became very close friends. She became his spiritual director.”
At the time, Paul still lived in Los Angeles, but he said when he corresponded with his uncle, Larry spoke “very fondly of Sister Marie Kevin.”
“Eventually, I did meet with Sister Marie Kevin,” Paul said. “She was there for my uncle. As he got sicker, she came down almost every day. I captured some great footage of my uncle and Sister Marie Kevin. She gave hope to my uncle.”
Paul – who also produced, directed and acted in “The Drunk,” – said there was no script for the film and the intention was to capture “the grace of letting go.”
“If you film 100 hours, you have so much,” Paul said. “Sooner or later, you’re going to forget the camera is there. It’s very different than dramatic filmmaking. I didn’t direct them. I just let moments happen.”
Paul said despite the grieving process, working on the documentary has been “therapeutic.”
“Everyone deals with grief in their own ways,” he said. “Everyone has a story about their own grief and suffering, but people often keep that faucet closed tight. This film has gone through many different drafts. It’s a very personal story. It took many years to tell the story I wanted to. Finally after seven years, I feel like that’s the stage where it is today.
“I probably did something that was very hard on myself. I’ve been watching images of my uncle dying over and over. It’s been very deeply challenging, but in the end, I think rewarding. In that 100 hours of footage, I finally found that essence of his experience. It’s about the grace of letting go. So I have to let go of that footage.
It’s a collection of memories that you have to jettison.”
Paul added Saint Mother Theodore Guerin’s presence can be felt throughout the footage.
“We put the ball in her court,” he said. “Her graces flow through the film. I think Mother Theodore’s spirituality is so important that it almost sets the tone for the entire film.
“Providence means everything,” he continued. “I can’t think of a better way to explain what faith is to someone and how grace operates. People throughout time have used that term, but I think it was St. Paul who said everything works for the grace of God. That is the essence of Providence.”