Afterlives of the Rich and Famous

Katharine Hepburn

Legendary actress Katharine Hepburn was born on May 12, 1907, in Hartford, Connecticut. Her father, Thomas, was a highly respected physician. Her mother, Katharine, was a suffragette whose outspoken rebellious liberalism was undoubtedly a model for young Katharine’s insistence on marching to her own distinctive drummer throughout her life. She was one of six children, and her early years were marred by the tragedy of finding her older brother, Tom, to whom she was very close, hanging from the attic rafters. (Whether it was an accident or a suicide has never been clear.) Katharine, only fourteen at the time, sank into a depression that led to her being primarily home-schooled for the remainder of her high-school years.

She graduated from Bryn Mawr College determined to become an actress and was soon appearing in minor roles on Broadway, which ultimately led to her first film, A Bill of Divorcement with John Barrymore, in 1932. She was promptly put under contract by RKO, made five films in the next two years, and won her first Oscar as Best Actress in 1933 for her work in Morning Glory.

In 1928 she married a Philadelphia broker and socialite named Ludlow Ogden Smith, which seemed to solidify her antipathy toward the traditions of marriage and motherhood. By all accounts, including her own, she was too unconventional and independent to be a successful wife and too career-oriented to be a successful mother, and the couple divorced in 1934.

Neither Hollywood nor the moviegoing public could quite figure out whether they were attracted to or repelled by the aristocratic, athletic, unorthodox Katharine Hepburn. She was completely disinterested in giving interviews, attending the right parties, and following such other traditional studio rules as never being seen in slacks or without makeup. By 1938 audiences seemed to be steering away from her films, and she headed back to New York to star in a Broadway show called The Philadelphia Story. Not only was the play a success, but Katharine was shrewd enough to buy the film rights, forcing Hollywood to welcome her back and meet her demands in the process. Her eccentric, elegant, beautiful charm in the film version of
The Philadelphia Story, surrounded by her personally selected costars James Stewart and Cary Grant, reformed her status from “box-office poison” to “bankable” and led to her third Oscar nomination.

Her life changed inalterably in 1942, when she starred in Woman of the Year. Her costar was the superbly gifted, iconic Spencer Tracy. The powerful chemistry between them kept them together onscreen for a total of nine films and offscreen for a romance that lasted until Spencer’s death shortly after the making of their last film together, the classic Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,
in 1967. Katharine’s relationship with Spencer was as nontraditional as almost every other aspect of her life—as a Catholic, he would have betrayed his religion by divorcing his wife, so Tracy and Hepburn simply proceeded by their own rules without the “technicality” of a marriage license.

In the 1970s, with eleven Academy Award nominations and three Oscars to her credit, Katharine began to include TV movies in her long list of credits and won an Emmy in 1975 for her performance in Love Among the Ruins with Laurence Olivier. Her fourth Oscar followed in 1981 for On Golden Pond. She continued working until the mid-1990s, when her escalating battle with Parkinson’s disease demanded her retirement from her career and public life. Katharine Hepburn passed to the Other Side on June 29, 2003, in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, at the age of ninety-six.

From Francine

The look of joyful shock on Katharine’s face when she emerged from the tunnel was touching enough, but finding her father, her brother Tom, and Spencer Tracy waiting to welcome her so overwhelmed her that she did nothing but silently hold them for a very, very long time. During a lifetime lived very much “in the moment,” headstrong and practical, she wasted no energy wondering what was around the next corner or over the next hill, but instead focused intently on her immediate surroundings and what if anything needed to be tended to, so it was consistent with that approach that she believed, “When you’re dead, you’re dead.” She referred to herself as an atheist or occasionally as an agnostic, but she also counted kindness, integrity, and lending a hand to those in need among her priorities, and in God’s eyes how we live is far more significant than the rhetoric we use.

One of the most rare and interesting aspects of Katharine’s most recent lifetime is that she and her soul mate charted themselves to incarnate together. Since soul mates spend an eternity together on the Other Side, they usually choose to incarnate separately for their brief trips to earth. But Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy mutually agreed that they could help further each other’s purposes if they spent part of their last lives on earth together as well, and with Katharine’s unique life themes of Warrior and Loner, her charting of their unapologetic unconventional relationship, designed to include frequent separations, was inspired. She also, by the way, charted her brother from a past life as her father in this most recent life, and her son from a past life to be her brother Tom, which explains why his death was so especially devastating to her.

She and Spencer live together at the sea, as they always have and always will. Katharine works side by side with her father as a medical researcher, specializing in neurological disorders. (She is adamant, by the way, about the fact that, contrary to popular belief, the neurological problems she encountered later in life had nothing to do with Parkinson’s disease.) They’re currently developing a cure for epilepsy, which they plan to infuse to a research team in Sweden, who will announce a major breakthrough in 2019 by your years. She is also an avid golfer—Christopher Reeve is her favorite partner—and a master gardener. While we’re able to create gardens here through simple thought projection, Katharine loves “the feeling of my hands in soil,” and she’s grown a blanket of fragrant ivory flowers that covers her and Spencer’s beach home like a great cloak.

Her one regret about her most recent lifetime is the pain she caused by marrying despite the fact that she knew herself too well to make any such commitment. Professionally, she has no regrets about her insistence on ignoring the “studio system,”
which would have stripped her of her individuality “and therefore my very soul,” and the role in which she took the greatest pride was her performance in Long Day’s Journey into Night.

There is no one she visits on earth. She’s learned that Spencer often visited her after he died, both when he was earthbound and after he’d transcended and become a spirit. “I kept hearing and seeing things and thought it was an intruder, and I’m not about to besiege my loved ones with that same annoyance,” she explains. Nor, she adds with a radiant smile, is she any more sentimental in the bliss of Home than she was on earth, taking the position that “we’ll all be together again soon enough.” There is, however, a place there that she and Spencer occasionally visit together. She describes it as a very private courtyard, hidden in a square of brownstones in New York, where she and Spencer spent some of their most peaceful days together. He was ill and frail, confined to a wheelchair, and they would sit beneath a tree; she would read to him and feed him soup, and they would talk and quietly laugh, with no one around to disturb the intimacy of their treasured solitude. If any of you on earth know where that courtyard might be, watch for them there, listen for their whispered voices, and appreciate that you’re being given a glimpse of your own immortality.

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