Turn and face the strange

I started to write this post yesterday as part of my ongoing attempt to deal with and understand my grief over Bowie’s death. Then I woke up this morning to the news of Alan Rickman’s death.

Another hero gone. Also just 69 years old. Cancer, again. Fuck cancer. Fuck it straight to hell. First Lemmy, then Bowie, now Rickman.

Many us watched Lemmy’s memorial live last weekend, raising our glasses of Jack and Coke (now officially called The Lemmy) in honour of a man who lived by no rules but his own. He found what he loved and did it until the day he died. His rallying cry at the start of every show was “We are Motorhead, and we play rock ‘n roll!” Two weeks before he died, sick and frail as he was, he was still performing, churning out those thundering bass chords.

Accolades and tributes continue to pour in for Bowie. His influence was so far-ranging that it’s almost unfathomable. A world that had never had Bowie in it would have been a world without punk and glam and goth and new wave. A world that might well have eaten someone like me alive. Like Lemmy, Bowie was very ill towards the end of his life. And like Lemmy, he worked up until the very end. Knowing that he was dying, he created a beautiful, haunting, mournful masterpiece of an album as a parting gift to his fans. He turned his death into a work of art. My fervent hope is that being able to create new art helped him his cope with the knowledge of his impending death.

Alan Rickman’s death is almost as much of a shock as Bowie’s. Like Bowie, no one knew he was ill. I loved so much about Rickman. That voice, with its depth and richness. That excruciatingly precise diction, which could sound cuttingly sarcastic or unbearably tender. His presence could redeem a mediocre film (Robin Hood, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and elevate a good film into a masterpiece (Truly, Madly, Deeply). As Professor Snape, he enchanted a whole generation. He was a late bloomer in some ways, not breaking into film until he was 41. And yet he never stopped trying.

Rickman said once that he admired the Toronto theatre company Soulpepper, and would love to appear in one of their productions. I clung to the hope that this would happen and I would get to see Rickman live onstage.

And now that dream has died, along with my dream of Bowie booking a 5 night run at Massey Hall. With me in the front row every night.

These are strange and scary times, my friends. I’m trying to figure what, if anything, there is to learn from all of us. Is it all just another cruel reminder that life is deeply unfair? That there is no justice or kindness?

Or is it that art is worth pursuing, no matter what anyone else tells you? That when you find something that you’re passionate about, to immerse yourself in it will lead you to know yourself in ways you never imagined.  That there is something healing and transformative in the arts and the passion they inspire. This past year has been hell for me, and I’ve lost touch with a lot of my passion and creativity. I’ve felt like I don’t deserve to take the time to nurture them. If there’s any lesson I’m learning from the deaths of Lemmy, Bowie and Rickman, it’s to make time for art. Starting now.

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