Institute History


Helen Kunen is a young woman caught between the pressures of a 1960's housewife and mother and her vague longings to be free. Part of her frustration comes from her domineering husband Bill, a teacher at Mt. Eden, a New England prep school, who refuses to let her seek the independence she needs-but, the real pressure comes from the fact that she is stricken with MS and her condition is deteriorating. Even though she wears a large metal brace, Bill believes she must ignore her disease.
Dave, a student who boards with them, is a classic screw-up, always in trouble, never doing his assignments. He has a crush on Helen who, contrary to Bill's hard-nosed approach, gently encourages him. Bill resents her interfering. He wants her to leave the teaching to him. This increases her frustration. She is sure Bill no longer loves her and that she is just a burden on him and their family.

One night Helen has a dream and in it she flies. It confuses and excites her. For the first time she feels free of the constraints that make her a prisoner in her own body. Now she has something that is only hers and it engulfs her. Her dreams come so frequently she is almost afraid to close her eyes. Meanwhile, without Bill knowing, she tutors Dave, who buckles down and studies. As they get closer, she tries to confide her experiences, but it is too much for him to grasp.

Soon her dreams become full-blown out of body experiences and she roams the world and Universe. But, each time she returns to her body, her physical condition worsens. She is so weak she cannot take care of herself, let alone her family and Dave. She's taken to the hospital where she gradually slips into a coma and leaves her body to finally become one with the Universe as her real world and the people in it fall apart. She knows her body will die, but she doesn't care. It will be better for everyone. The doctor says it's no use and wants to wean her off the respirator, but Bill refuses. He'll never let her die. He needs her.

Dave tells Bill what Helen said about leaving her body, but Bill won't listen. Dave, at first crushed by what is happening to Helen, falls in love with a girl his own age, but Bill, who takes pride in and credit in Dave's improvement, can't understand why the same tough approach won't work on himself.

Dave makes Bill see it wasn't his toughness, but Helen's tenderness that made the difference and Bill finally understands who Helen really is. He sees how selfish he's been and won't stand in her way any longer. He unplugs her respirator, releasing her to continue her quest, though he will spend the rest of his life loving her. Through Bill's love, which she can now feel so strongly, Helen realizes she must live her earthly life to its fullest with all its joys and frustrations before she can leave her body forever. She returns to her family, her friends, and the students of Eden.


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