Ashes to Ashes. We All Fall Down.
Yesterday, along with the rest of the world I was shocked and saddened to hear of the death of actor Heath Ledger. For those of you who didn't know who Heath Ledger was he starred in such movies as Brokeback Mountain, The Order and my personal favorite, 10 Things I Hate About You. He was only 28 years
Just writing about Heath Ledger in the past tense sends chills down my spine. Sure death is sad, but something about it becomes so much more prolific when it is the death of someone young. When someone older dies there often isn't an element of surprise. After all, we all know we are going to die someday in someway. But when someone dies unexpectedly and in their prime, their past presence takes on more meaning. It doesn't matter that in theory we know this can happen at any time. Suddenly it becomes not about what that person accomplished in their short lives, but all the things they never would since that life was taken away.
Of course Heath is not the only actor of his kind to die so soon, or even, so recently. In fact, just last week, lesser known actor Brad Renfro died from an alleged drug overdose just a few days shy of his twenty-sixth birthday. Although Brad was younger, somehow his death wasn't nearly as shocking. In his short life, he was in and out of trouble with the law and involved in problems with drugs and alcohol. Sources close to Brad said he had been making attempts to stay sober, but perhaps the price of fame was just too much to take.
The death of both Ledger and Renfro reminds me of a day back in 1993 when talented actor River Phoenix died at only twenty-three years old. I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was fifteen at the time and since River was only seven years older, I, like many of my peers, identified so much with his sudden death. It might sound silly, but that was the first time, or at least the most profound time, that it hit me--death could happen to anyone, at any time. Back then I was naive enough to also be shocked that Phoenix, a teen heartthrob who made multiple appearances in anti drug campaigns was not being true to his word. See, I didn't understand that actors weren't only good at pretending to be other people on screen. Often times they were "acting" in real life, too.
I've grown up a lot since my early years of disillusionment, but that doesn't take anything away from those who lose their lives, especially those who seem on the surface like they have so much to live for. But whether it be Heath Ledger or Britney Spears, it doesn't change the fact that something somewhere is seriously wrong. Say what you want, but young Hollywood today did not seem to learn a thing from the pitfalls of those lost child performers. Instead the public continues to build these people now, more than ever. Think about it. The paparazzi today is 100 times worse than it was ten or twenty years ago. They are stronger in means and in numbers. Does this excuse erratic behavior and the actions of overgrown children who don't know how to behave? Of course it doesn't. But it's the chicken or the egg scenario. Are these people lost because they lead a life of debauchery or are they leading a life of debauchery because they are lost?
We might never know what category Heath Ledger fell into. All we do know is that he now and will forever on be remembered as one of the many who was taken from us far too soon.
When I think about River Phoenix's death and the troubled lives of those who have come after him, a popular song from that time period haunts me to this day. This song is called Amazing and it was sung by Aerosmith. At the time the lyrics reminded me so much of the news of River Phoenix's untimely passing but as the years have gone by, it's become much more than that. The song hints at the promise of change, but to me the "light" also could be construed as the light to the other side. I'll leave it up to you.
I kept the right ones out
And let the wrong ones in
Had an angel of mercy to see me through all my sins
There were times in my life
When I was goin' insane
Tryin' to walk through
When I lost my grip
And I hit the floor
Yeah,I thought I could leave but couldn't get out the door
I was so sick and tired
Of livin' a lie
I was wishin that I
With the blink of an eye you finally see the light
When the moment arrives that you know you'll be alright
And I'm sayin' a prayer for the desperate hearts tonight
That one last shot's a Permanent Vacation
And how high can you fly with broken wings?
Life's a journey not a destination
And I just can't tell just what tomorrow brings
You have to learn to crawl
Before you learn to walk
But I just couldn't listen to all that righteous talk, oh yeah
I was out on the street,
Just tryin' to survive
Scratchin' to stay
Desperate hearts, desperate hearts