As many of you may already be aware of, last week Joan Lee- wife of comics and Marvel legend Stan Lee- passed away. She was 93 years old and they had been married for 69 years; would’ve been 70 in December.
Joan, though not actually in the geek world herself, was beloved by the community nonetheless. How could she not be? Her husband is the godfather of this incredible genre; he loves her and so do we. This is a heavy loss on multiple levels and I can’t imagine what Stan must be feeling. To experience the loss of a truly adored friend and marital companion of nearly 7 decades.
And then, of course, there are the whispers.
When one spouse goes, the other soon follows.
And yet, by the same token, inevitable.
“We don’t get to choose our time. Death is what gives life meaning. To know your days are numbered. Your time is short.” -The Ancient One, Doctor Strange
My sister brought me back to this quote, in her efforts to lovingly prepare me for the expected passing of Stan Lee. This is how she and I communicate; movie quotes, bits of poignant character dialogue, comic book scenes that boldly say in their panels what we may hesitate to directly say to one another. I appreciate how the connection has grown between she and I, how we navigate the intricate dance of this thing called intentional relationship.
And yet as I reflected upon this saying- marveling at how I considered it profound when first I heard it- I realized that since then, I’d evolved. Somewhere along the way I’d adopted a different position without knowing it. As I tasted the foamy sting of death’s waves not yet crashed to shore, I was confronted with an inescapable insight.
Emotional tethers do not find their anchor in death, but in life. The hyper stimulation to loss is a necessary selfishness reminding us that we still care. That we still matter. That we still have work to do. Mourning, like crying, is ultimately a pointless gesture. But that’s because those aren’t things you explain… they’re just things you DO. All the revelation, truth, logic, and fact in the world has no effect upon the wounded heart.
If life matters, and I believe it does, then it matters on its own. Period. A gold coin is still a gold coin, whether sitting in the Queen’s treasury or buried in outcast’s dirt. What death then appears to be, in this light, is an indicator of consciousness. Death reminds us that this frail human skin has a finite shelf life, despite the indestructability of the spirit inside it. It reminds us that we actually don’t have all the time in the world to make an impact, to communicate our love, to do as much good as possible. It reminds us that this precious commodity called time, paid daily into the gambling slots called life, is precisely that- a gamble.
Are you going to truly live today or not? Will you honor the moments you’ve been given or not? With absolutely no concrete foresight on what is to come, will you make meaningful use of what you have?
Death also reminds us that there aren’t really any rules. Guidelines, perhaps, but certainly no rules. The extremely fastidious health guru can die of a brain tumour, while the nonchalant cigarette smoker can still be knocking down packs at 85. The scheming, manipulative banker can meet with excessive financial gain, while the hardworking and honest parent of three kids dies tragically in a car accident. The abusive husband becomes a changed man and remarries happily for another few decades, while the church going, faithful and generous ex-wife marries a con artist who steals her money and beats her to death.
Anybody can get it at any moment. Which would be terrifying and depressing, except for one thing.
Life is about living, not about death; Death is a shock back into consciousness. A prod in the side to live on purpose with purpose.
Which brings us to loss and mourning. When people die… particularly those we have an emotional connection to, be it directly or symbolically… it hurts. We feel that loss, because something WAS lost. It’s physical. There was a living human here and now there is not. There was a spirit inhabiting space on this earth and now there’s a void. Loss is an invisible tangibility. We feel it. And that’s okay. It is not a slight to life or your post obsolescence existential beliefs to shed tears and feel emotions of sadness and longing.
There is room in your story for your grief.
Yeah, let that sink in.
Deep into your nuanced cracks and crevices…
Feels… different, doesn’t it.
Like something you knew was true all along, but could never quite give shape to with your words.
Isn’t it fascinating how the inability of some words to comfort or placate will drive you into a much truer place, even if it hurts more?
Stan Lee is going to die.
I know this.
And it will hurt.
I know this as well.
But I know something else too, just as surely as I know Stan himself knows it.
We treasure people, because of the life they ignite inside of us. They are a spark of something so profoundly out of this world, that our soul gravitates towards them, leading us to maneuver difficult lessons of sympathy and forgiveness, because that spark resonates with the life inside of us. Like a crackling whisper we’re longing to give full voice to every single day. I’m living the portion of my life that Stan inspired. I’m doing it right now. And when he passes, though I shall grieve as I move through the pain, I will still continue to live.
Because, despite Death’s ominous stare, Life is a priceless treasure all on its own.
Happy trails my friends.
Ask better questions,
Do interesting things,
Live your best story possible,
Keep your wings up.
Joshua Evans is a prolific writer and sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast who believes story is central to everything and that mythology can change the world. He currently hosts two youtube shows- The Truth About Superheroes and Comic of the Week, as well as runs a short story blogsite on medium as The Story Junkie. If you would like to further be a part of his cosmic psyche, you can join him on Twitterand Instagram or simply subscribe to this blog… and remember- sharing is caring! Cheers!