In my lifetime so far, there have been two celebrity deaths that hit me on such an inexplicably personal level of pain that I actually had to stop and cry:
1. Madeleine L’Engle (1919-2007): author of A Wrinkle in Time and so much more.
Madeleine L’Engle made me want to write, to fly, to make space travel small by skipping over the fourth dimension, and to explore the vast depths of mitochondria by riding on the back of a star. She made it okay to be both a believer AND a scientist, and called out “Christian art” for the redundant nonsense that it is. She was and continues to be my hero.
2. Chester Bennington (1976-2017): lead singer of Linkin Park and so much more
Linkin Park got me through my divorce, it’s as simple as that (favorite albums here and here). Their music was and is therapy, the sound of my feelings – vulnerable rage, cerebral angst, disappointed perseverance – and Chester Bennington’s voice was a huge piece of that. I often found myself worrying that he’d lose his voice to age and overuse because of his intense, sustained screams; I didn’t know to worry he would lose it to suicide.
How do you mourn someone you didn’t even know? How do you honor and reconcile the memories of people who shaped your life despite never actually meeting?
The predominant emotion I’ve had to wrestle over parting with both of these dear ones is regret, precisely because they didn’t know they were dear to me. I never told them. I spent years receiving life from them and never took the time to give anything back…and now I never can.
So now I think the best way to honor the departed is to appreciate those still present. I have other people in my life – relatives, friends, artists, and even a few scoundrels – who don’t know their worth to me. It doesn’t really take much to set that right. A tweet here, a link shared there, even the occasional actual handwritten snail mail, all of these can push back the dark with a show of gratitude.
I’m going to make it my mission for the rest of 2017 to reach out to everyone whose light has brightened my path and just offer my bit of thanks. Will they receive it? Who knows? But better to put it out there and know I tried than to see one more beloved light extinguished without so much as a spark in answer from me.
Join me, yeah?
P.S. If you have ever considered suicide, wrestled with invasive thoughts, or generally believed people would be better off/unaffected if you were gone, get in touch with these guys. Just so you know: