When Artists Leave Us
This past week was a tough one.
On Monday I received the devastating news that Cathy Elliott, a beloved member of the Canadian theatre community, had been hit by a car while out walking Sunday night and was killed.
On Tuesday, I noticed many friends posting media reports about the death of Canadian actor John Dunsworth, known for his performance in Trailer Park Boys. He’d lost his battle with cancer.
And on Wednesday, the entire nation seemed to be grieving the loss of Gord Downie, the lead singer of The Tragically Hip and, as many seem to believe, a defining voice of our country. Another lost battle with cancer.
Three Canadian artists. In one week.
Throughout this fog of grief and sadness, I had been reading The Blythes Are Quoted by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
The Blythes Are Quoted is considered to be the ninth and final book about Anne Shirley, her loving husband Gilbert and their children and grandchildren. Maud had the manuscript delivered to her publishers the day of her death in 1942. In 2008, it was revealed by the family that Maud died of a drug overdose that may have been deliberate. Reading this book in light of her possible suicide makes it all the more poignant. And, since I had never read this book, I felt like I was saying goodbye to a fourth beloved Canadian artist this week.
When a family member or friend leaves us, we are usually left with letters, cards, photos or other momentos of our time with them. We display, discard or pack away these items for a time when our broken hearts can handle revisiting them.
When artists leave us, we are left with their art.
Art to enjoy time and time again, in both our sadness and our joy.
Art to study and discuss and share with future generations.
In the case of these three, relatively young, Canadians, thank God we have their art to continue to enjoy, share, ponder.
I think most of us are at peace with the fact that life is short, we only get one shot and saying goodbye to those we love is a (horrible) part of life we all must deal with.
But damn it! For Cathy, John and Gord, why did it have to come to an end so soon?
I, for one, was ready to enjoy so much more of what they had to say. So much more of their art.