Most of people who know me know I would never consider myself a “fangirl”. Oh, I’ve had my fair share of “love affairs” with celebrities over the years, but never to the extent of taking time off work to visit movie sets…or sleep in the rain for a week to get an autograph…or spend my paycheck to fly to wherever to attend a production then stand outside the stage door on the off-chance I might get a picture with, or slightly brush against, my current heartthrob. And never, ever have I shed more than a few tears over the passing of a favored actor, singer, writer, or artist. Even when dealing with the passing of close personal friends and family, I’m the cold one. The one who may cry in private, but never in public. The one who is more likely to make a joke to stop the tears than to wallow in grief. After all, I know where my friends, family, and myself are going after this worldly life is over, and that I will see them again one day. I may be a Doubting Thomas in lots of things in my life, but in this one thing, I am certain. But to mourn, to truly grieve someone I never knew beyond the characters he portrayed or the interviews he gave—I scoffed at the idea. Perhaps even rolled my eyes a little at the people who continue to mourn the passing of celebrities like Elvis, remembering his birthday and death day with equal solemnity.
Then came Thursday.
To say I have been eating my fair share of crow since the awful news broke on January 14 would be the absolute understatement of the decade. In fact, I would say I am virtually choking on it at this point. The news of Alan Rickman’s death from cancer at the age of 69 blindsided me with the kind of force one expects at the sound of a nurse’s voice on the other end of the telephone telling you there has been a change in your loved one’s condition and you need to come. The world shifted beneath my feet. An uneasy chill settled in the pit of my stomach and spread upward to where my heart beat in my chest. Alan Rickman was gone. His deep, sonorous voice was silenced. And my very soul seemed to ache beneath the weight. Still does, if I were completely honest.
But why? Why did this one man, one actor’s passing affect me—a cold, clinical, bottom line when it comes to death kind of person—so deeply? Why do I still feel this chilly emptiness in the center of my chest? Why am I still prone to waves of sadness with the accompanying tears? I didn’t know him. Not really anyway. I never had the opportunity to see him in person, whether on stage or when he was no further away than a movie set in Savannah a few years ago. I certainly never corresponded with him or sat down across the table from him to share a meal or a cup of coffee and a little conversation. So why? Why? Why? Is it a sign that I have finally ‘gone ‘round the bend’ as some of the Brits like to say? Am I just an overemotional fangirl?
While I’m sure I could find the more clinical answer if I delved back into my psychology minor (and I’m sure I have a few friends who would be willing to provide the answer if I couldn’t find it), I think I like the answer my heart seems to be giving me every time I read another post by someone who was personally touched by this actor, by this Alan Rickman. This human who, from all accounts, had a servant’s heart.
Since the first reports of Alan’s compassion, gentleness, and loyalty hit social media, one quote by the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, has been swimming in my head:
“Do all the good you can,
by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can,
in all the places you can,
at all the times you can,
to all the people you can,
as long as ever you can.”
And that is what Alan Rickman did. Whether the Methodist his mother was, an atheist who didn’t believe in God, an agnostic who couldn’t fathom God’s existence, or held some other belief system entirely, this was what he did. This was the kind of heart he had.
This is what we are mourning, I think. Not the roles he played on stage and screen. Not the interviews he gave. Or the galas he attended. Or the awards he won or should have one. But his heart. His servant’s heart. The one that shone brightly enough for those of us on this side of the movie screen to see and be touched by.
And there is absolutely nothing foolish about grieving the death of a man such as this. Or remembering him in the intervening years until we each breathe our last. Or carrying on his legacy of generosity by listening and caring and passing on our own wisdom to those who seek it. Absolutely nothing foolish at all.