Roughly an hour ago, I learned that the actor Michael Clarke Duncan had passed. I find myself greatly affected by this, which is odd considering the reactions I’ve had to far more personal tragedies in recent memory.
People I know, people who laughed with me, who shared their lives with an effective stranger on our first meeting left me before I was ready in the grand scheme of things. I’ve received news recently of more loss to come, and I’ve added it to the things I feel should not happen, but it’s a distant pain. Pain expected, not expectant.
And now out of the blue, a man I’ve never met lost a two month battle with complications following a heart attack, and suddenly I’m out of sorts.
Why is this? Surely my more personal experiences should matter more. Surely a stranger’s tragedy is less immediate, more distant.
And then I think about my relationship to the universe. Today’s pain is every bit as real as the pain I had last year, or last month, but tomorrow it will be a memory. No matter how raw, no matter how visceral, I can never return to these moments again. the first cut is the hardest one to face, and after that it’s just hurt.
I hurt. Last week I gathered with friends to remember the life of a woman who made me welcome. Her smile dances in the back of my eyes, her laugh echoes on the wind. There’s nothing I can do to make her passing palatable, and there’s an empty hole in my heart where she used to be.
There is no equivocation between my recent tragedy and that of a man whom I have only seen on my television. MCD never made me a drink, or held my hand when I felt down. MCD never laughed at my jokes, or made me laugh because he was in the room. But I feel his loss as keenly as every other subtraction over this last year.
Why? Because he mattered. He mattered to me, if no one else. His body of work stands as a testament to what he felt was important, and I’ve never seen the man without a smile on his face. He seemed to enjoy every moment of what he was doing, and a casual picture posted by someone who did know him well made me cry.
I wish he had been my friend. And in a way, he was, since he made me happy when I was sad.
So how can we best deal with loss, in such an indirect manner? Should we beat our chests, tear at our skin while we wail? Can we allow our second-hand pain to rule our life? No matter how severe our incidents, we live in the now, not the then. The past I trail behind me is sufficient to drag me down into gibbering madness, yet I find the strength each day to rise and face the future. I do this not in spite of my memories, but because of them.
There’s no other way for me to live.
When I think about loss, I think about my friend Karen. I remember her smile, I remember her laugh. I remember her on my couch, and then I remember when a friend told me I’d never see her again.
I don’t like that memory so much, but it’s mine.
Instead, I remember her life, and why she lived it.
So I say to you all, as you go forth in a world of pain and loss, remember everything. Savor those days when you had happiness, but live in the now. Because there’s not that much room underneath my desk for all of us to huddle, but there’s more than enough room in my house for us to remember those we loved.
Be there. Be here. Be awesome, while you can.
Live. Because some people can no longer remind you how important it is that you do.