Mourning a Stranger

Every so often, a celebrity dies, and the world expresses its sorrow that they’re gone.

I can sympathize with those who get saddened when famous people they liked die. My friend Mia got legitimately sad when Leonard Nimoy passed away because she had spent countless hours watching the original series of Star Trek. She had even shown me the entire series not a month before he died.

But I used to get the feeling that people jump on these glorified condolence bandwagons just to be a part of it.

Self-proclaimed fans will flock to Twitter to tweet about how much they will miss a person they have never even met. Does it never strike them as strange?

I was mildly perplexed, and a tad annoyed if I’m being honest, about this trend until the recent passing of Stan Lee.

His work impacted me in ways I can’t even impart to you.

And when he died, I felt an inexplicable sense of loss.

I mean, I didn’t know Stan Lee personally. I never even shook his hand or saw him in a crowd. He was a name on a page, a picture in a book, a cameo in a movie.

But his death shook me.

Being the analytical dweeb that I am, I spent some time thinking about why it was affecting me so much, so much that I even reached out to those people on Twitter I had previously disparaged.

Why I cared so much about Stan Lee’s passing boiled down to three things: how long I had associated Stan Lee’s work with my favorite comic books, how much I appreciated Stan Lee’s work for what it was, and how desperately I relied on Stan Lee’s work to find meaning in my life.

I have read comic books since I was nine years old, and heroes like Spider-Man always featured heavily in my reading selections. Super heroes have always been a concept I could get behind, even as an adult. Stan Lee’s heroes in particular taught me so much. Not how to punch or anything like that. But that even a nerd who wasn’t the best-looking person around, could be the coolest hero around.

And that maybe spiders weren’t too scary.

And his work eased me into comic books before I started reading the darker, more mature stuff. In a way, he introduced me to the format of a comic book.

Anyway, this line of thinking took a turn for the morbid, and I actually started fretting, for weeks, about all the people I admire and how devastated I will be if they die before me. It was like a slide I couldn’t jump off of.

Side note: Thinking about mortality in this manner sucks. Don’t do it.

So after another few weeks spent flipping through Alan Moore’s graphic novels, reading Stephen King’s early works, and listening to nothing but John Williams’ soundtracks, I finally took a chill pill.

I just realized how lucky I am to have these kinds of people existing in the universe at all.

And how lucky I am to not be alone in my fandom for them.