Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why did Heath Ledger's death hit our family so hard?

This is the question we were asking ourselves last night. It is nothing new for a young artist to make tragic mistakes and die young. We have countless examples from past years of that very thing. However, usually we are sorry to hear it, shrug our shoulders and move on to the next thing.

When Rose got a phone call from a friend last night and responded in such obviously shocked tones, I had to ask what had happened. I was stunned. The last time I remember feeling this sort of shock was when Princess Diana died. I was making dinner and then in the middle of it would suddenly remember Ledger's death and feel that shock again.


That is the question. Do I feel silly even posting this? Yes. No question. But after all what is a blog for if not to ruminate about the things that puzzle us?

It is not as if I am a big Heath Ledger fan. I would never see a movie simply because he was in it. I didn't ever understand why people thought he was so "cute."

However, I respected his acting. His obvious skill showed with each new movie. I noted the plaudits from Brokeback Mountain, though I will never see it. For me, his skill showed in The Lords of Dogtown where I didn't even recognize him until I was informed of which character he played about halfway through the movie. It also shone in The Brothers Grimm where he went against type to play his character.

Perhaps it is because he seemed mature beyond his years. If you had asked I would have said he was perhaps 33 or 34. Another shock was to find that he was only 28.

Feeling extremely silly, I mentioned to Tom how shocked I was. He told me that hearing the news had given him a strange shock also. Which was both reassuring and surprising because if anyone really didn't care one way or the other about Heath Ledger, it was Tom.

"I don't know why," he said. "Maybe because he seemed older than his years, we never heard about anything but his movies ... he seemed to have it all together."

Maybe that's it.

He seemed to have it all together.

What is becoming obvious from reports is that Heath Ledger, like most people, had problems that he struggled with, and didn't "have it all together."

Like Owen Wilson, who also seemed so balanced and sunny and who shocked everyone with a suicide attempt recently.

I learned during CRHP formation that quite ordinary seeming people often have unexpected depths, tragedies, traumas, and demons to wrestle. However, that is an easy thing to forget as time goes by and our own affairs absorb us, often taking on an importance that is not warranted if we are not careful. Recently an acquaintance shared some of her history with Tom and me and we were reminded again at the enormity of what some must overcome simply to go on living a normal life.

Rose watched A Knight's Tale last night and I joined her halfway through. It was our way of mourning the loss of that talented young actor who obviously touched us in a personal way without our ever realizing it until he was gone.

I don't know why Heath Ledger's death hit our family so hard.

I may never know. Sometimes there are no answers to our questions.

We are praying for his soul and for the peace of his family and friends who mourn him.

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