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Nothing Can Truly Be Said

I already feel as though there has been an overload in the news on the loss of Heath Ledger, and I don’t want to go on repeating what’s already been said. So I refuse to say anything about the circumstances of his Death or any of the speculation. The fact of the matter is, a very talented young man died long before his time, and the world is less of a place for it. Yes, it’s tragic that he leaves behind a young daughter who may grow up with no memory of her father, especially when her father was such a remarkable man who was loved by so many. But that’s not what’s worst to me. What is the most tragic and devastating to me is that in the future, most people won’t know him. My children will probably have no idea who Heath Ledger was, unless they study film and see Brokeback Mountain. That has always been my problem with death, and why I fear it: that someday, we’ll be gone and it will be as though we were never even here.

Those who know me know I’ve seen more of my fair share of death, and before the age of 20 I had been to more funerals than both my parents. For example: five years ago, I lost three friends in three months. One in November, one in December, one in January. It got to a point where going to funerals and going through the mourning process became just that: a process. Not that it ever made it any easier, but after a while it got to feeling like, “Oh, another funeral. Okay, here we go again.”

My friend Todd died in November of 2002 after battling cancer, and I was never the same person again after that. I can remember that night like it was yesterday, and can hardly believe it’s been five years since he’s been gone and how much has happened in that time. And it kills me that he hasn’t been able to be here for all of it, and that he won’t be here for everything that is to come in the future. Todd’s sister, who is one of my good friends, has been dating the same person for three years and is probably going to marry him. He’s a great guy and I couldn’t think of anyone better for her, but it’s hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that he never knew Todd, and I think her parents have a huge problem with it as well. I hate that the people who come into our lives from now on will never know him or what he meant to me. I have his initials tattooed on my hip, and when someone asks me what it is, it’s so hard to explain in the right way. The simple explanation “my friend died of cancer” doesn’t do him justice. A post in this blog doesn’t do him justice. Talking about him for an hour doesn’t do him justice. In the same way, I feel as though seeing the performances Heath Ledger left on film can’t possibly do justice to the talent that never got a chance to be expressed. Not that his performances weren’t great, because they were. But it’s so obvious that there was so much more there, so much untapped talent that he never got a chance to show to the rest of the world. Apparently he was starting to get interested in directing. Who knows what kind of greatness in film could have come of that?

One time during my sophomore year, my roommate got really drunk and started crying because her grandmother, who she was very close to, was sick in the hospital. In her drunken stupor, she admitted to feeling guilty about being so upset when I had been through so much more and managed to hold myself together. “How do you do it?” she asked. “How do just go on and be so strong after everything that’s happened to you?” At first, I was too surprised to respond because I was in shock. It never occurred to me, not once, that other people would actually feel ashamed of their own grief because it somehow seemed “less” than my own, which is preposterous. Luckily, not many people outside of my close friends are aware of everything. I don’t like being pitied, I do all my grieving alone, I don’t like to talk about it. But what I told her, and anyone who’s asked since then, is that it never goes away. It never gets completely better, and you can never really go back to the person you were before it happened. You face your grief, and deal with it head-on in whatever way you have to. For me, I withdraw into myself, shut everyone out, and just tackle the pain and let it, for lack of a better term, beat the shit out of me. After the worst is over, you carry it around with you always, until it fades into a dull ache. It still hurts, more so when you go back and relive what’s happened, and there’s still a void where someone you loved used to be, but you get used to it. Trying to forget anything, or get over it as quickly as possible, doesn’t work. What saddens me about Heath Ledger’s death is that I don’t want his daughter to grow up with that. I can hardly remember how it felt not to have this weight to carry around, but I know I was a very happy child and she deserves that too. Everyone has to face death sooner or later, but it’s not fair to have to face it right away. Let her be happy for a while.

It’s very weird for me to mourn for someone I never met. I’ve never felt that upset over the death of a celebrity, never cried, even when Diana died. But I bawled like a baby when I found out, and kept bursting into tears every time it came up for hours afterwards. It’s almost embarrassing how much it upset me, and it’s not something I would admit to most people. It seems ridiculous, even. But the fact that he was, no joke, someone I worshipped (no exaggeration) for a while, not to mention he looks scarily similar to a friend of mine who I also had on a pedestal for quite some time, and sort of still do. (I emailed my friend yesterday just to say hello because the whole thing is too eerie. They could be brothers.) Every girl has a major celebrity obsession at least once. Heath Ledger was mine during my adolescence and teenage years, which was a pretty tumultuous time. My cousin Adam used to work for Vanity Fair, and when they had Heath on the cover, not only did he mail me the issue while I was at summer camp, but when Heath came into the office once after the initial interview, Adam cornered him to tell him about his cousin who “loved him more than anything.” And I believe his response was “Tell her thanks.”

Although it almost feels wrong to compare his death to any of the deaths of my friends or loved ones, in some ways it feels similar. If he lived on, I’m sure somewhere down the road we would have crossed paths. But the fact is, I never knew him. On a general level, his death doesn’t affect my life at all and overall, nothing in my life will change.

But there is most certainly a void.

This post first appeared on Exits And Entrances, please read the originial post: here

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Nothing Can Truly Be Said


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