Friday, January 25, 2008

the real victim of this tragedy

I've been thinking about the death of Heath Ledger lately and it makes me really sad. Not really because I was a fan of Heath Ledger. Yeah, he was a great actor. And I've heard so many good things about his portrayal of the Joker in the new Batman film coming out, The Dark Knight, that I'm actually looking forward to seeing it. There are the stories about the drug abuse and how he's been clean for a year. And I've read about his many flings since he and Michelle Williams broke up last Fall. But the one thing I can't stop thinking about is the real victim in this sad tale of a Hollywood star dying way too young--his 2-year-old daughter Matilda Rose.

His family has portrayed Heath as a loving and doting father (again, I don't know him, but this is what I've read). Matilda will probably feel his absence soon. And when she gets older, her mother will need to explain to her that her daddy passed away. And it will be so very hard for her to accept.

How do I know this? Well, I can relate to little Matilda. My father died when I was 2 years old.

Granted, he didn't (allegedly) overdose on sleeping pills (accidentally or intentionally). He died from cancer. He was a very young 38 with an equally young wife and three small children. His smallest (me) was only a few months old when they discovered the tumors growing in his lungs. He did all he could to fight the disease that was inside of him. He refused to let the cancer keep him from living. He did all he could to be with us for as long as he could.

My father was quite the extrovert. He was a friend to many and respected by his friends and colleagues. Even today, I still have people come up to me (at home), telling me stories about my father. "Your father was so kind." "Your father was so generous and giving." "He would be so proud of you." He was a legend of sorts for our little community.

I appreciate the stories and kind words from family friends and acquaintances. I really do. Since he passed when I was still a baby, I can't honestly say that I know him. Hearing these little anecdotes help me to get to know him better.

This is probably the hardest thing about your father dying when you are young. You never really get to know him. You'll never see for yourself just how friendly he was. You'll never have a story of your own. My mom tells me that my dad took me to ride the carousel horses and she'll show me the pictures, but she was only a witness to the story. The story is not mine because I don't have a memory of it. I'll look at pictures of my dad and think, I don't know this man, but I feel connected to him.

I look at the road ahead for Matilda and it won't be easy. After all, she has countless hours of her father's films to watch (I only have my mom's wedding video and that is always difficult to watch), but she won't know him. She'll know her father's characters and she'll read her father's interviews, and she'll listen to people's stories, but it won't be the same. None of these memories are hers.

Ultimately, when she's older Matilda will realize that no picture, no movie, no YouTube video will ever fill that void. No taped experience, no story told could ever make up for the fact that she will have no recollections of her own. She'll never know the experience of being with her real father.

And in my opinion, that is the most tragic part of the story of Heath Ledger's death.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Indeed. That poor little girl.

(I'm sorry)