As I received the flood of calls Tuesday regarding the news of Heath Ledger's death, like many of you, it brought a flood of unexpected feelings in the middle of my work day: shock, devastation, questions, confusion and profound sadness.
Once I read the details, crosschecking various websites posting news of pills being involved, I was forced to recalls memories of my own loss a few years ago, when I learned that my beautiful 33 year old full of life boyfriend of five years Phineas had lost his fight with addiction.
While we hear so much gossip about celebrities, this was not gossip just simple terrible sad truth, I was not prepared... but the truth is, we never are.
There's nothing that prepares you for devastating news, especially when it is news about a life lost this beautiful person far before it's time... with a life full of so much potential. It's a Mack truck coming at you and striking you head on in the middle of your ordinary life and everything you thought you knew about everything, is suddenly gone-- as if your whole life up to this moment is irrelevant or didn't really exist prior to this second. That's what it feels like losing someone to suicide, drug overdose, or anything not particularly planned.
In death there is one door to open and walk through, with suicide, drugs or questionable passing, you have to walk through two doors and the second door doesn't have those clear cut answers that door # 1 does.
It's a living and breathing constant weight of inexplicable grey emptiness.
And even news about someone like Heath Ledger who none of us knew beyond his terrific acting ability, or the photos in the weekly rags, we are touched, affected and saddened for so many reasons. Mostly because we realize it could happen to each of us at any particular moment, and that is what frightens us.
As a survivor who has walked through this, I feel for what lies ahead for those who loved him. I am sad for Heath's two-year-old little girl Matilda , also for her mother and former fiancée of Heath, Michelle Williams, despite their separation I can tell you she will never be the same person after receiving this news. It will be a long road to finding her center again, but she will walk through it, and she will do so with grace, compassion and strength and she learn so much about herself and about others that she will also find the gifts within the loss, as I have. She will become a wise woman far sooner than she expected.
I am also deeply sad for his parents, who will forever have an empty space in their being, and feel responsible in some way or from for not having known he was at this place in his heart. They don't realize that there was nothing they could do, beyond loving him as they did. He knew their love.
And I have deep compassion for all of his friends who loved and knew him and will undoubtedly wonder if there was something they could have done or said day after day. They will again and again try to recall the last conversation, and have regret for what were both said and was not said. And they will wonder for years and years. They too will be changed, and in many cases for the better. They will love deeper, be less afraid, take chances, say how they feel, and live the life they really want versus a life someone else wants for them.
Anyone who met, knew, worked with Heath will especially miss his smile, his laughter, perhaps the way he held a cigarette or ordered breakfast with some funny substitution or request, and that irresistible sexy aussie accent--because it's the little things you miss when you lose someone you love.
My Phineas had all these little isms, how he worked his gorgeous hair with Nivea lotion versus hair product, how he moved in the kitchen when preparing something as simple as scrambled eggs, like his very own dance, that twinkle in his eyes and his smirk and smile that made everyone he talked to feel as big as the side of the world.
Now and then when I look up, sometimes I see him - not in this crazy person way, but rather in this very quiet , special way that brushes up against me and reminds me to have gratitude and live in this very moment for today, because we simply are not guaranteed tomorrow. And to let go of wondering what I might have could have or didn't do, because loving him was enough and remembering the isms are what's important and those moments, keeping his spirit alive is what keeps him alive in our hearts always.
I have walked through loss and it changes you. Today I am a substantially different person than before experiencing loss.
I am aware, I take chances, and I say yes instead of no, I love deeper, say how I feel and mean what I say. And I actually have this thing called compassion, which has been the biggest surprise and my greatest gift.
I hope for us as people who are mothers fathers daughters aunts uncles, that in the next few days, we extend compassion before gossip, and fact before fiction, and the people who spearhead the media remember that one day, Heath's daughter Matilda will be reading everything that is written about her father today. So maybe we can play nice from the heart versus for the numbers,viewers or website hits.
If we can use the awareness to move toward recognizing how each of us might help conquer this huge issue of addiction which as Dr Drew Pinkski , Addiction specialist says is "the core problem of our time" I think it's something worth looking into. And may we each say prayers for Heaths family and all those who have experienced unexpected loss.