Sunday, May 26, 2019

On Death

This post includes spoilers for William Shakespeare's four hundred and thirteen year-old play KING LEAR.
“Thou wilt come no more.
Never, never, never, never, never.”

- LEAR V.iii
Gloucester (Anne McEvoy) and Lear (Robert Hawkes)
My phone has this odd bug … I’ll be listening to a podcast and the Music app will suddenly start up, playing some song I purchased from iTunes at some point in the past fifteen years.

Today, before rehearsal, that song was "You’ll Be Back" from Hamilton. What an exciting time that was, three years ago, discovering this new musical, this national craze, at the same time as my seventh grade daughter.

I haven’t listened to this score for, what? Half a year? Since summer vacation last? So I had to ask myself, why this feeling of sadness, of melancholy, especially in reaction this, one of the lightest, most frothy tracks on the album?

Ah yes, always. Hamilton is steeped in melancholy for me. We purchased it shortly before my father died one February Friday morning. The year 2016 was dizzying, thrilling, full of anticipation, promise, and fear. And all year I was keeping my chin up, deep in mourning.

All the celebrity deaths that year. “Let’s all make a protective circle around Betty White!” I didn’t find it amusing. You know what I found amusing? That moment in Oh, Hello On Broadway when George St. Geegland (John Mulaney) says, “Ladies and gentlemen, it behooves you when a famous person dies, blame it on the year and make it about you.”

Just as we were adjusting to the new normal, death of a father, death of democratic norms, came the call. My father-in-law had cancer, the kind you don’t get better from. We were still in it, only my father dropped dead one day. They were all correct, those who said that was better. Yes, Chris hung on, danced at his daughter’s wedding. But his care took such a toll on my wife, on my mother-in-law.

My wife gently reminds me she wouldn't have traded those seven months with him for anything.

When he passed that December, my son was ashamed that he didn’t grieve in the same manner he had for my father. He didn’t openly weep, he was numb. We tried to reassure him. My father was a shock, a surprise. You knew this was coming.

But my son lost both grandfathers in as many years. I am glad he was close to my dad. But Chris was supposed to teach him so much more.

Kent in the stocks.
I am in therapy. I am having difficulty moving on, of making sense of all of this. Turning fifty, watching my children move into the last stage of childhood. I realize I may not have much longer, I didn’t used to be able to see the end, and now I can.

What have I accomplished? What have I yet to do? Will I do it?

And what will oblivion be like? I will miss this world, I want to see so much more. That is why I have been investigating Buddhism, to make peace with the void.

Performing in King Lear exacerbates this anxiety, especially in the role of Kent, working to help and protect those he loves from harm and then watching helpless as, in spite of his best efforts, they are all dragged down to their doom.

Kent survives, but Albany’s appeals for the nation to move forward do not compel him. He will die soon, too, of a broken heart.
“I have a journey, sir, shortly to go.
My master calls me, I must not say no.”

- LEAR V.iii
Have a beautiful Memorial Day.

Beck Center for the Arts presents "King Lear" directed by Eric Schmiedl, May 31 - June 30, 2019