When My Friends Are Grieving

Well, that was a lousy week. 

California’s national parks are still on fire.  Violence is spiking throughout the country, with resentful racist teenagers crossing state lines to live out their violent revenge fantasies.  A goddam Nuremberg rally took place on the White House Lawn.  And to top it all off, we lost King T’challa.  As you no doubt know, the actor Chadwick Boseman passed away from cancer at the obscenely young age of 43.

There isn’t much for me to add here; the man best known for playing the Black Panther was a tremendously accomplished actor, a man who demonstrated extraordinary strength in working on epochal, billion-dollar films through his illness, and by every account a kind and graceful humanitarian.  I’m heartbroken; we all are.  I mourn the man; I mourn the work we’ll never get a chance to see.  I’m sad he’s gone; I’m sad I’ll never get a chance to meet with.

The thing of it is, many of my actor friends did get a chance to work with him.  I know a man who understudied him in an early New York theater project before he achieved stardom; I know a man who was his college roommate.  And with this awful news, I’m watching all of them grieve.  There’s nothing I can do about it other than express condolences; thanks to the ongoing pandemic I’m stuck in my apartment alone, watching all of this unfold on my laptop, with only a feeble Facebook comment as a means of reaching out to heartsick friends.  It’s a weird, sickening feeling of helplessness; in no way comparable to their grief, but a terrible feeling all the same, the feeling of a bystander at some awful tragedy.

I distinctly remember the morning, a few years ago, when I turned on the morning news as I ate my breakfast and learned that Phillip Seymour Hoffman had died.  Several friends of mine had worked with him at LAByrinth Theater; he had worked with them, mentored them, and in at least one instance gotten them clean.  Many of them were living in Los Angeles at the time, and as I took in the terrible news I had the sickening realization that they didn’t know any of this had happened yet.  They were still asleep in bed, blissfully unaware their friend was gone.  As the day wore on, they’d be learning about the tragedy, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it but watch a relentlessly unfolding parade of grief.

It’s a horrible, helpless feeling.  And it makes you feel small when you feel it, since it pales in comparison to the loss of the person, or the grief felt by those who knew him.  There isn’t really much more I can say, no advice I can give other than to try and be as kind as possible.  Maybe that will help the coming week be slightly less lousy.

Leave a Reply