How often we create or envision the character of people we have in mind when we don’t really know them. We make them perfect––or we make their imperfections just so. We step back from amazingly written books and watch our favorites step out from the pages and look us in the eye. We do our best to perfect our ability to speed read when they are on the pages, so as to somehow be there with them within the tale. We are made motionless at times when reading their words. We often repeat those very words, softly and quietly on our lips, and try to hear them from the very mouth they were intended to come from.
That is imagination, one might say. The characters are from books and movies––already created for us. Yet, that is just it. I was handed a fictional life and I added to it until it became something very real to me. Very dear to me. In my eyes, an entire story would not be the same without this very character. And, as this character is real, he is also a person outside of fiction that, when movies were released, added to my ideas that depicted the very notion I had created. The lethargy that followed every conversation, the scratching voice that reached the soul when paired with words that would make you cry, the swift hand gestures and the turns when you would watch the back of this character walk away from other characters––walk away from you. The storyline that broke your heart––a heart that always seems to fall for the underdog.
The underdog: a competitor to have thought to have little chance winning a fight. The underdog in my favorite story, where he was lost, hurting, ruthlessly mean at times. And yet, I saw the pain behind the actions that plagued him throughout his portrayal. And, I came to know the immense talent that was wound around one man playing these scenes that came alive because of him. Alive.
This morning, I saw a name in an article and recognized it, but it didn’t immediately resonate with me who it was. I really tried not to learn it, even after all this time. Because, for me, it wasn’t about a man, despite all his amazing talents. It was about a character he helped create. A character who I had come to know through a series of books and then a series of movies that I fell very hard for. A character whose death I mourned and I am now to mourn the actor’s death as well. An underdog in a book and movie series and an underdog within this life in his battle with cancer.
I’m struck because I am tired of hearing of the loss of life all too young. Loved ones, ones I personally didn’t know, or ones many didn’t know, but loved for their contribution to the world through their boundless talent. Too many people are the underdog to cancer and I’m overcome with grief for anyone it has touched.
. . .
I was young when much of your work was coming out. I watched you in Love Actually and can remember thinking, “My God, that man has poise. I could listen to his voice to fall asleep at night.”
Then the Harry Potter series became movies and I watched your character. I knew from the beginning that you were never the “bad guy.” You worked your talent and magic so well that I fell for you and believed everything you said. How you punctuated the T’s at the end of a word to sound sharp and irritated. How you never appeared anything less than overcome with complete lack of emotion or, on another scale entirely, showed absolute outrage, terror, or heartache. And, how you made me hold my breath when your acting commanded it.
Your smile was always so kind in every picture I saw of you. And, the words you were quoted saying resonated with me. “Always.” Me too, Alan. Always. This connected me in such a way that I knew you were good.
Thank you for the laughs and cries. I am sorry that Death became real for you far too early. It leapt from the pages you also loved to read and it took you before you were done. I am sure, as your talents were ferociously clear, that you were not done. And I am selfishly sorry I will miss the work you would have put forth and the new words your unique and mesmerizing voice would have spoken.
. . .
I knew from the very start that you were a good guy. You couldn’t fool me for a moment. I read your words and imagined you. I loved you for all your loss and strength. I became an investigator––obsessed with your way of being and determined to turn the pages and find out who you were and what your story was.
I laughed hard when you said, “obviously,” and I cried at the loss you felt and the secrets you had to keep. When you finally let that constantly serious face crack and you cried, holding the love of your life, I bawled like a baby. “Hide her. Hide them all, I beg you.” If I hadn’t been already sold, you would have sealed the deal then.
You, the Half-Blood Prince. Your Patronus. I felt all of it with you, because you suffered as much as those who suffered unhidden. If your character was not real to me in books, it was set in stone from the films. When you shed your tears––your memories––my knuckles were white. When you drew your last breath, I was holding mine. “The bravest man I’ve ever known.”
My most favorite character, ever. After all this time . . . always.
. . .
My heart is heavy. Thank you for your contribution. Thank you for your brilliance. I am truly sorry for your suffering––all of it.