You know that feeling when you get the sudden rush of fight or flight, and you get that sickening adrenaline from head to toe? That’s what I felt when I saw the news about Chadwick Boseman. I was on twitter, so I took a breath and thought “That’s GOT to be an awful prank”, despite looking at the verified check mark as I thought it.
I tapped over to my web browser and looked it up. That’s my go-to when it comes to celebrity deaths – if nothing pops up when you search their name, it’s probably not true.
My heart sunk when I saw multiple variations of the same headline: Chadwick Boseman dies at 43 after battle with colon cancer.
In a world where some folks make it their jobs to instagram their every move, Boseman kept his battle private. More than that, he made the movies and did the interviews that will define his legacy, all while battling cancer. As someone who prefers to nyquil themselves into oblivion at the first sign of a cold, this absolutely blows my mind.
I’m not here to tell you that you need to eschew rest in the name of hard work, to swallow your limitations and grind yourself down. How-on-earth-ever Boseman managed to work as hard as he did while undergoing cancer treatment is not the point. (However, if you want to use this as motivation to work hard on something, by all means.)
When the shock and sadness wears off, what’s going to stick in our minds is his work, his kindness and dignity. If 2020 has given us little (and taken much), we should reflect on the fact that very little is certain. So many things that we assume will carry on, like the traditional school day and playing sports, can be upended on a global scale.
What do you want to leave behind?
Also weighing on my mind in the quietness of his fight is seeing people now embarrassed for having criticized weight loss in pictures from earlier this year. I think it raises another very important point – we never know what’s going on with someone.
We don’t know if someone is grappling with their old eating disorder when they pick at the food on their plate, if the guy who walked in front of us is preoccupied about his job, if your snappish co-worker just got bad news about their father – we don’t know any of it.
Some people are jerks though. Okay, maybe. But that doesn’t make them unworthy of sympathy, because everyone is going through something and clearly, we have no idea what.
Maybe, just maybe, consider that you don’t know the full story before passing judgment on someone. It’ll cost you nothing, and clearly :gestures at world: we could all use more compassion.
There’s a lot going on in the world right now. While I deeply wish that the catalyst was different, this is a really good time to think about your life, how you handle others, and how you want to be remembered. Pick your cause, because there’s a lot of areas of change to choose from.