Always…and Forever

Today is the birthday of the late actor, Alan Rickman. Alan passed away on January 14, 2016, and as happened on this day last year, I wavered back and forth all day, on whether I would write a blog post in honor of this insightful man. 

The truth is, the only reason I hesitated is because of the concern that others would perceive my post to be the gushing of a fan girl. If that is the worst thing ever thought about me, I decided, that’s okay! Far from being star struck, I have deep appreciation and gratitude for Alan Rickman, who has greatly inspired me. 

Always and Forever
After Alan’s death last year, following a short battle with pancreatic cancer, I keenly felt his absence in the world. A bright light flickered and went out. Reading about Alan, in the days following his death, I discovered a quote of his that became an invitation to learn more about him. 

Always and Forever

I wanted to know more about who he was. I accepted the invitation to discover Alan through his vast body of work. It has been a soulful and amazing journey, this past year, watching Alan’s films and shorts, interviews and late night tv show appearances. In addition, I’ve read his words, primarily through collected quotes, and the words of his friends, colleagues and interviewers. 

Always and Forever

This is what I have learned from Alan Rickman, who became my teacher though we never met, who walked alongside me, sharing his wisdom, though none but me knew he was there. 

It is never too late to do what you are created to do. The heart and body know the way. Although he was always interested in acting, Alan came late into the profession. After working as a graphic artist, he at last followed his heart and his passion, performing for years on stage before breaking into film as Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Alan said that when he made that shift, “My body finally sighed with relief at being in the right place.” 

Always and Forever

Don’t let others decide who you are. Only you can do that. Because of villainous roles such as Hans Gruber and the Sheriff of Nottingham and Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies, Alan could have become typecast, continuing to portray darker characters. He refused to allow that, expanding himself and his viewers in such diverse roles as Jamie in Truly, Madly, Deeply, Alexander in Galaxy Quest, and King Louis in A Little Chaos. He played, with equal talent, villains, romantic leads, doctors, heroes, businessmen and kings. In one of his final films, Alan stood behind the camera as well, as the director. 

Always and Forever
Help others along the way. Over and over, I have read how Alan helped other actors that he worked with on his many films and projects. He graciously offered encouragement, support and suggestions to his colleagues, from helping a young Kate Winslet in one of her first films, Sense and Sensibility, to attending other performances and plays of Harry Potter co-star Daniel Radcliff. Friend Ian McKellen paid Alan tribute, calling him “a constant agent for helping others.” 

Always and Forever

Travel and see the world. I discovered that Alan loved to travel, calling it one of his favorite things to do. He saw the value of experiencing different locations and cultures. Alan wrote, “Nothing gives me as much pleasure as traveling. I love getting on planes and boats and trains.” Relationships are important. Treasure them. Not only did Alan help fellow actors, and build friendships that lasted a lifetime, he was also in a long term relationship with one woman. He met his wife Rima as a teenager, and their love story spanned 50 years. He acknowledged that their long years together were due to Rima’s remarkable tolerance, saying she deserved sainthood. 

Always and Forever
There are so many other lessons from Alan that I could list. One of the most crucial has shaped this year, and my life, in a profound way. Alan’s quote, “If only life could be a little more tender, and art a little more robust” is my focus for 2017. I have taken Alan’s words to heart. As I move through each day, having asked the question of the Divine, How shall we play?, I stay open to the opportunities to be tender toward others, to create robust art in my life. This year is shifting me in huge ways.

Always and Forever
From his perch on my writing table, Absolem the caterpillar, whom Alan voiced in Alice in Wonderland, reminds me daily of this extraordinary man and his gifts to the world, as he asks the question…Who are you? In considering that question and answering it for myself, I have studied Alan’s journey, learning about who HE was. He has encouraged me, as surely as he did his colleagues, to follow my heart, to declare my truths, to cherish my relationships and help others, to travel and see the world…and to make life a little more tender and art a little more robust. 

Always and Forever
I am full of gratitude for this man who is so much more than an actor to me, whose life has impacted so many, including me, and whom I will love and miss…

…always…and forever. 

Always and Forever

Surrender 52: Always…

I wasn’t sure if I would write this post this evening, even though truthfully, I knew this was the surrender for me. There was another birthday that I took note of today, and while he is not a family member, I’ve thought a great deal about his life nonetheless. He was born on this date, in 1946, and passed away last month, on January 14, after a short battle with cancer. 


I first took notice of Alan Rickman in 1991, when I watched, delighted, as he brought the Sheriff of Nottingham to life on the big screen in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. Being a fan of Kevin Costner, I initially viewed the film because it featured him in the role of Robin Hood. I returned to watch it, again and again, because of Rickman. 
  Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves

I was unfamiliar with this British actor with the distinctive double bass voice. However, I quickly remedied that. I watched him again as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, and as Elliot Marston in Quigley Down Under. The time being way before the days of Googling someone to find a wealth of information, I learned about Alan by watching his films as they released, reading interviews or catching him on a late night show for a few minutes. 


I couldn’t explain the connection I felt to Alan Rickman then, and I still can’t to this day. It’s enough to acknowledge that there is one. His life and work resonate with me on a deep level. And the more I learn about him, the more I find to appreciate about him. 


Alan has an impressive, and varied, body of work, from stage to film to short indie pieces, from actor to director to Tango dancer in a music video. Often cited as one of the best villain actors in the industry, he was actually so much more than that. He did excell at portraying the brooding bad guy, as evidenced by his early films. But he brought depth to characters such as Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility and could elicit laughter in films such as Galaxy Quest. 


He was also known for taking his work seriously, even while not taking himself thus, and for immersing himself in the roles. I discovered that he often got to know his character so well that he gave valuable input to the director concerning how the role should be played. For the complex Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, Alan came up with the character’s wardrobe. The long rows of buttons on the tunic and the sleeves represented how closed off Snape was, how confined in his actions, and hinted that there was more to him hidden behind those constraints. 

  From Harry Potter

I was shocked, and deeply saddened, by Alan’s death, as many were. I’m still processing the loss of such a beautiful and magnificent soul. I immediately made a list of the movies I had not seen of Alan’s, British films that were not widely distributed when they initially released, and a few more recent ones I had not watched yet. 

 Truly, Madly, Deeply

I have enjoyed his amazing portrayals in movies such as Mesmer, Snow Cake, Rasputin, A Little Chaos and Truly, Madly, Deeply.  I’ve been reminded of his versatility and brilliance in the shorts Dust, Song of Lunch, and Play. And thanks to YouTube, I’m able to see his early works such as The Revolutionary Witness: The Preacher, and The Barchester Chronicles. 

 The Revolutionary Witness: The Preacher 

Watching these films and shorts, catching interviews on YouTube, reading about his many projects, and learning how much he cared about people and offered his help, makes me miss this man I’ve never met. I realized though that by watching his movies I was getting to know the man at a richer, more intimate level, much as I learn more about an author by reading all of her books, or an artist by studying his paintings. Today, I came across an astonishing quote, an invitation from Alan that I had unknowingly already accepted. 


I am doing that very thing, getting to know Alan, what made his heart sing, what gifts he offered to the world, what injustices drew his fire, by knowing his work. In appreciating what he did, I’m discovering more about who he was. 

  From Snow Cake

I had intended to write this post after I had watched all of Alan’s films, shorts, poetry readings and stage clips. But the flow of life presented this opportunity instead, by way of his birthday today. Thank you, Alan Rickman, for touching my life with yours, for accompanying me on my journey, without ever walking alongside in person. 

Toward the end of the Harry Potter story, Snape’s good heart is at last revealed, as is his lifelong love for Harry’s deceased mother, Lily. “After all this time?” asks Professor Dumbledore. “Always”, is Snape’s solemn reply. 

That’s my answer, should I be asked in the years to come if, after all this time, I’m still watching Alan’s films, still learning about him, still appreciating his gifts. 

Always, I’ll say. Always.