Grieving as a Collective

Oh, 2020. How you have gutted us all.

I am trying to be positive and I still believe in silver linings, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how the ongoing grief that this year has heaped upon us hasn’t been heavy. Between some personal losses, the ongoing pandemic that continues to claim lives by the thousands, and the string of unexpected demises of public figures, I have shed quite a few tears.

Most recently, the shocking and tragic death of actor Chadwick Boseman left me quietly sobbing at 2 a.m. early on Saturday morning. It was only two short years ago that my friends and I were greeting each other with the “Wakanda Forever” salute in celebration of such a marvelous actor and a brilliantly comprised cast bringing a beloved Black superhero and his team to the big screen. Aside from the fact that it was a beautifully composed film, Boseman portrayed T’Challa in a way that eschewed slapstick stereotypes in favor of a dignified, courageous, intelligent, and, above all else, proud portrayal of Black excellence, set in Africa no less (fictional nation notwithstanding).

Furthermore, Mr. Boseman’s body of work was one that I had admired long before he entered the Marvel Universe, and continued to adore afterwards. Between his portrayals of other real-life Black heroes such as Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, and the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown in addition to several fictional ones, he poured himself into the shoes of these great men, real and imagined, embodying their character and breathing life into their stories that made them all the more captivating to watch on the silver screen.

To find out that Mr. Boseman had been quietly fighting colon cancer in 2016 only for his star to continue to rise as he completed some of his best work during those years leaves me in awe. It must have taken a tremendous amount of strength, will, and drive to continue his craft, if only to ensure that his legacy as an actor would remain etched into history. Furthermore, his activism in the fight for racial equality and his selflessness in visiting children fighting cancer took place even as he himself was battling for his own life. I could only hope to have a fraction of such vigor and fortitude in my own life, let alone in the presence of such painful suffering. Seeing him thriving quite literally in the face of death makes him, in my eyes, a real-life hero.

Even in the midst of our collective grief, I do find solace in the fact that he was able to smell his roses while he was still here, as it is no secret that his work as an actor was admired by so many and that as a man was loved by many, many more.

If there is nothing else we take from this and other losses of this kind, I encourage all of us to remember these two things. First and foremost, whatever your “it” is, do it now. Life is too short for you to rob this world of your greatness. Do not assume that you have time; you may not.

Also, be kind and tell your people you love them. Say it early, say it often, and say it while they can still hear you.

My condolences go out to Mr. Boseman’s loved ones.

Long live the king.

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