There will be some people in your life who will judge you or question you or be completely confused by your sadness over the death of someone you never met.
That is their problem, not yours. So don’t feel like you need to apologize for being genuinely sad or happy for someone you don’t know. That actually makes you a really great human being.
And it means that Luke Perry was really great at his art. Because you connected with him through his roles. You rooted for him.
I hope someday when it’s my time, when I am dragged kicking and screaming and maybe a little drunk and full of tacos from this earth, that people I never met will feel sad. That I will have had a positive impact on them even without being at their dinner table or living in their neighborhood. I want that for all of us. I want our reach to extend beyond the circle of people we see every day. I want us all to matter well beyond our kids and cats and coworkers.
Your ability to care about others beyond your circle is one of your greatest talents. The fact that you can get up at 5 a.m. with me to watch a royal wedding, or cry over a fictional character who doesn’t exist anywhere but your head and the author’s heart, the fact that you can mourn the death of a child of a friend of a friend of a friend makes you beautifully, wonderfully human. Despite what Twitter and the news say, we are compassionate, loving, and beautiful.
Now, let me tell you why I am so sad over Luke Perry. His role as Dylan McKay on 90210 imprinted pretty fiercely on me. This was my first TV experience of watching a regular girl (Brenda) from a regular place (Minnesota) catch and keep the eye of the bad boy. The unattainable, devastatingly attractive, no-on-can-have him, can’t-stop-thinking-about-him guy. Not only did she catch his eye, she unlocked him to find a good (I’m totally ignoring the Kelly fiasco here), vulnerable man who loved her. Now, THAT is my kind of catnip when it comes to a love story. The regular girl unlocks the unattainable guy and they live happily ever after… again, minus Kelly.
Over the decades since that show, I’ve always thought of Luke Perry fondly because of the impact of his art.
So maybe it’s not Luke Perry for you.
Maybe it was Grace Kelly or Bernie Mac or George HW Bush or Mr. Rogers or the elderly lady who lived down the block that you always meant to visit but never got around to it…
My point is, there are people out there we don’t know that we can still be profoundly happy for and sad over. Those people won’t be the same for everyone, but as long as we’re not crapping all over someone else’s exaltation when a Kardashian has a baby or their devastation when their favorite poet passes away, it’s all good. It’s all beautiful. And it’s all worthy of feeling. Feel your feelings. Don’t apologize for them.
Oh, and you all better be clutching tissues someday when I head off to that great book signing in the sky.
Note: I originally posted this wall of text on Luke Perry in my reader group on Facebook.