I’ve been carrying around a heavy heart today. A large lump has been stuck in my throat as I carry myself from one obligation, one class, one meeting to the next.
This morning I woke up to the news of Alan Rickman, beloved stage and movie actor, passing away from cancer at age 69. I know of Rickman most intimately from the Harry Potter movies. Surprise, surprise. He played the character Professor Severus Snape, and he ultimately shaped and performed one of the most unlikely heroes of modern book to movie adaptation. Not only would the movie franchise not be the same without Rickman’s portrayal, but the hearts and minds of so many young children who grew up reading and watching the movies would be subpar if he hadn’t inhabited the mind and body of Professor Snape. He brought to life one of the most complex, beautiful, and tragic characters in children literature. He will not be forgotten, and not only because his vocation was that of timeless art, but because of the kindness and compassion he gave to the many he encountered.
This blog post isn’t meant to be a tribute to Alan Rickman specifically, although I truly believe he deserves that and so much more. In reality, this post is what his passing has brought to light for me today: the uncertainty of life, as well as the certainty of an unavoidable death. Whether I meet death with cancer, as Alan Rickman did, or with tragic accident, or natural causes. Death for us all is the one truth we hold. Mortality is one thing we hold for certain. There are existential moments we all experience throughout life where we graze death, and come to the realization of our finiteness. But to live with that constant and consistent reminder would be an undoubtable cause for insanity. It’s brief moments that root us once again in our undeniable finitude.
I don’t know when my life will meet its end. To say that I have no fear surrounding that fact would be a lie. But quite honestly, I fear the loss of my loved ones far more than the loss of my own identity and personhood. Because that is a reality I would, and will, have to live through. What Professor Snape’s narrative brings to light is the courage and dignity we all can carry throughout this life, until we meet our death. What Alan Rickman’s passing reminds me is the choice we have to say yes to love and life in spite of our unavoidable demise.
I got a Harry Potter tattoo a few months ago, and people have asked me “Don’t you think you’ll regret having that when you’re 80?” My answer is consistently “No”, but I realize that my answer is actually much deeper than that. The world of Harry Potter gave me hope as a bullied child growing up, it gave me a world of magic when the realities of the harsh world started to set in on me, and it showed me the light of grace and forgiveness in spite of a world that can seem so dark.
When my grandchildren one day ask me about the 9 3/4 etched into my right forearm, they may ask the meaning and significance. They may ask “After all this time?”
And I will say, time and time again, “Always.”
R.I.P. Alan Rickman. February 21, 1946 – January 14, 2016.