I wrote this blog the day after actor Chadwick Boseman died at the young age of 43 from colon cancer. Most of you won’t know him by name, but may remember his legacy from playing the lead character in “Black Panther” along with other notable movies such as “Marshall”, and “42”. I’m filled with sadness today as yesterday we lost a superhero in our minds. Yesterday we lost an actor with the ability to memorialize some of the greatest historic moments in our times, by playing characters that represented those times.
To some, Black Panther was just a movie. But to others, the movie allowed Black and brown people the opportunity to cheer a superhero that looked like us. It was the first major superhero movie with an African protagonist. Someone that fought the “bad guys” and won. Someone who lived in a better time, with better opportunities, with a better future. Chadwick brought grace and humility to a warrior and helped inspire a generation. The man behind the character was admired for his generosity, kindness and compassion. I suspect that’s also a part of the loss people are grieving.
Chadwick’s death struck me hard on another level too. It reminded me of the innocence lost when my husband died in 2015. The hard realization that the life I once knew was gone. That life with all the “creature comforts” was forever changed. No longer was “my super hero” alive to assist me in figuring out life’s problems and challenges. No longer is my husband able to “swoop in” and save the day when I’m attempting to figure out how to pay a bill, or how to fix a household problem, or more importantly, how to quench the pain in my heart.
Superheroes are manmade. Movie studios create these fictional characters to bring hope to the world, to create and trigger the imaginations of the young and old needing to experience a bit of “make believe”. These characters, these superheroes, allow us to escape the brutal experiences of reality. A world of unemployment, evictions, food deserts, divorces, substance abuse, crimes, sex trafficking, chronic illness, pain and even death. Yes, its true- sometimes we need to escape.
My husband, John, was the superhero of my family. He was the patriarch of a large family left to carry on life without him. As the patriarch, he provided wisdom and knowledge to his descendants, and is still highly regarded by his adult children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren. He played the role well- always remembering birthdays, mailing wonderful inspirational cards, and making long distance phone calls to provide advice and show his love. He was just a “great guy” and is still missed in our everyday lives!
Just how the world, especially children will miss the Marvel Studios’ character “Black Panther”, I will also miss the beautiful acting of Chadwick and his ability to play groundbreaking figures like James Brown, Jackie Robinson, and Thurgood Marshall. The hole he leaves in Hollywood will be large, as even now accolades of his life continue to be celebrated.
I can honestly say though, those memories, those expressions of love, pale in comparison to the shock, grief and admiration experienced by my family’s life after the death of my husband. Our own family superhero is no longer available to help guide us or more importantly to connect and inspire us. He was the constant in the family. With our extended family living in different parts of the U.S, his consistency, his presence, was the “glue” that made us stick together. The man behind my husband was kind, generous and full of life.
People have shockingly realized superheroes don’t live forever. We’re left with memories- good and bad.
We learn to cherish those memories through pictures, videos, and even old greeting cards. May the spirit of my husband continue on, through remembering his life and legacy. We can remember superheroes!