The tragic death of Cory Monteith has touched so many lives; those that knew him, those that were fans, and those that simply watched from afar as his career took off in the best of ways. Myself, I’ve never seen a single episode of Glee. I’ve seen clips on television shows and flashes of it as I flipped through channels, but in reality I probably fall outside the demographic, and I never really took the time to see what it was all about. Regardless of my lack of attention to the show that rocketed Monteith to stardom, his death has had a profound affect on me. From the moment the first headline appeared I felt a heaviness in my chest that I couldn’t understand. In my mind, I was grasping at straws to come to grips with his untimely and tragic death. It was in talking to my friends about what was happening that I realized I’m not the only one that comes from this very same place. So many of my friends knew of Cory in passing, maybe watched Glee once or twice, but they wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves fans of the show. Yet here we all are, coming together to talk about how sad and deeply uncomfortable the entire story makes us feel.
Then, it hit me. Cory was one of us.
Those of us that sit between 26 and 35 with a whole life before us that we are only just settling into. Here we are, adults with our own bills and our own goals, most of us fully surviving on our own for the very first time. We sit back and we see our potential and watch as our goals get accomplished one by one. We are developing our sense of self worth, something that we’ve always wanted, and the confidence it brings us helps us to take on life in a brand new way. There’s a sense that, while we’re definitely getting older, things are only really beginning to fall into place. That, among so many other things, is what brings this all home for us. Cory was wildly successful, but we had only really began to scratch the surface of what he was capable of. Like all of us, he’d struggled through the idiocy of adolescence, he’d gone through the process of discovering himself and making colossal mistakes, and he was coming in to his own and trying to set his life on track.
Then, just like that, he was gone.
Cory isn’t the first young life that we’ve seen taken away. In fact, his story has a lot of parallels to that of Heath Ledger. Both just breaking out in to new roles, showing us what they were really made of, with fans that would go to the ends of the earth to watch them do what they did best. Both struggled with substance abuse problems and both of them tried to set things right along the way. In the end, both of them were found in similar ways, bringing a tragic end to their bright futures. I was 22 when Heath died, and while I definitely found myself upset and glued to the news for more information, it didn’t hit me quite as hard. At the time, I don’t think I could understand the gravity of what it is to lose someone so young. It doesn’t seem that young, until you begin really planning the rest of your life. I’ve seen the passing of iconic artists like Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor. But Cory, he is different, what happen to him is real to me in a way that is uncomfortable, confusing, and painful.
It took me a car ride and some serious soul searching music to realize where this grief was coming from. Grief is natural when someone passes, but in general, I reserve it for those that really knew the person and try to keep myself out of it. The truth of the matter is, he’s our best friend. He’s the person we go to dinner parties with. We meet him at a bar on Friday nights. He stands for every single one of my friends. While we go about our lives and make plans, set ourselves up for a future that we hope is successful and without too much turmoil, we don’t think about death. We don’t think about the fact that we could wake up tomorrow and our 31 year old friend could be gone forever. It’s simply not something that crosses our mind on a day to day basis. While most of us have outgrown the idea that we are invincible and indestructible, death is not at the front of our minds when it comes to our friends. While we might worry about our grandparents and even our parents, we don’t sit around worrying about each other in that regard.
When Cory Monteith passed away on Saturday night it shook a community, it devastated a family, and it woke something up in a certain generation. My generation. It showed us just how fragile we all are, that we need to be aware of what one another is going through, and that we need to show compassion and kindness to one another around every turn of this roller coaster of a life. Because we never know what is going to happen to these tight knit, self-chosen families that we’ve created.
To all of Cory’s fans, I extend my deepest sympathies. To his family and close friends, I send all the love and light within my soul. And to my friends… may we forever cherish the time we have together and help each other be strong when our demons try to drag us down. May we learn that life may be long and crazy, but it can also be cut short, and we have to hold tight to each other every day that we’re here to enjoy it.
Cory, you helped so many people be comfortable with who they are and spread a love of music and theater that our youth desperately need more of. You will be missed more than words can say. Thank you for reminding us to continue loving one another despite the insanity of the world we live in. Rest in Peace, sweet man, your legacy lives in all that you did.