In late 1999, I went on a date with a completely unmemorable boy, a boring dinner and then a movie. We saw "Dogma." It blew my mind. I know, I know. It's Kevin Smith. It has its flaws. But imagine if you'd thought one very narrow, very concrete way for 20 years, and then you started to kind of veer off into another path that was all tangled brush and broken stones and you felt utterly lost. And then you hear an angel -- enormous wingspan, fiery entrance, as smooth and anatomically impaired as a Ken doll -- say, in the voice of Alan Rickman, which is the voice of God: "You are Bethany Sloane. Nobody can take that away from you, not even God." And then imagine that you take that and apply it to yourself and how suddenly the ENTIRE UNIVERSE is now open to you, because you belong to yourself. And no one can take that away from you, not even God, and you get that on the most basic cellular level, and it's a lightbulb moment, and it's coming from a man with a wicked smile and a raised eyebrow that can drop pants. Who else but Alan Rickman could make an archangel so weirdly relatable, so strangely human and humane?
A couple of years later, on a cold New York night, a magical universe exploded on the screen in front of me. Characters I loved -- and loathed -- were brought to vivid, wonderful life. And hook-nosed greasy-haired Snape stole the show, and stole our hearts. This is how we learned that sometimes the villain's stories are as important as the hero's. This is how we learned how love and hate can exist so closely in the human heart, as intertwined as the roots of the Whomping Willow. This is how we saw the ways that bravery and cowardice can come from the same source, and how grief can impact us, and how true love can change us. This is where we found our Patronus. This is where we truly understood what ALWAYS means. And who but Alan Rickman could bring Severus Snape to us so completely, so exactly the way he was written? The tortured and the torturer, the haunted and reluctant comforter, the bullied child and the bitter hero? Who else but Alan Rickman could have been that voice of derision and detestation, lovelorn and lonely, cloaked in brokenness? Who else could have summoned the doe?
I'm not even getting into Hans Gruber or Alexander Dane or Colonel Brandon or even Harry from "Love Actually" and all the ways in which they shaped the way I look at life.
It's like losing a mentor. It's like losing a friend. It's like losing someone you thought you just really, really liked, but who, as it turns out, was one of the great teachers of your life. So many moments where you didn't know you were learning. So many times you were a better human because of him being brilliant and awful and hilarious and amazing. This is the way that art shapes us and makes us -- we don't even know that it's happening.
Whoever his Lily was, I hope those were the last eyes Alan Rickman looked into.