When Our Heroes Die
Some Personal Thoughts on the Death of Anthony Bourdain
Death, in its great wisdom and merciless fairness, comes to us all. It even comes to our heroes and extinguishes those bright lights that have generously and brilliantly illuminated truths about the world and truths within ourselves.
It’s abundantly clear from our overwhelming collective sorrow that Anthony Bourdain was one of the brightest. To say he was a man loved and admired by many seems insufficient.
When the people we admire die, the parts of ourselves inspired or changed by them are transformed by grief into something that at first feels unmanageable and unbearable.
At the risk of sounding flippant, it’s like dropping your favorite mug and watching as it shatters against the floor. It’s no longer as it was, and this sudden change, this shock, draws the breath from your lungs and culminates in a disbelieving shout.
The best we can do is sweep up the pieces, glue them back together, and appreciate how it once was while also appreciating how it is now changed.
There are deaths yet to come that I’m already dreading. It’s the nature of opening your heart and your mind to being affected by another human being.
I always hoped I would meet Anthony Bourdain, not to tell him I admired his work or to get an autograph or to ask him about his travel but to share a beer and talk as one human to another as he did with so many.
His death hurts not simply because he was a great journalist or an inspiring chef or a celebrity. His death hurts because his humanity and his respect for truth and justice were larger than life. His sudden absence hits us particularly hard because the sense of love and humanity he inspired is the same part of us that now throbs and sobs and shakes in the wake of his death.
But that’s the gift he gave us in life and now leaves us in death: an enduring and compassionate reminder of the existence and importance of our own humanity and the humanity of those around us.
This is a gift we must truly and enthusiastically embrace, not just in the coming days but for the rest of our lives.