Heath Ledger was an actor whose work I respected. I thought his role in the movie The Patriot was as accomplished as a man like Robert Duvall or Deniro. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding Heath Ledger’s death, here are lessons we can learn from this tragedy that hit an actor whose work I respected:
Pop Stars are Fleeting
Our pop culture emphasizing sexuality and beauty fails to recognize the temporary nature of our existence. It’s proven that our life span is limited. And, yet, it’s a troubling fact to face.
Man is Not the Measure of All Things
In college, I enjoyed the debates between humanists – many of whom were professors I respected – and Christians. We have developed amazing technology to communicate rapidly around the globe, our entertainment choices are wide, and we have access to so many advances in medicine. Yet, we cannot control or determine the exact length of our lives. We are limited. While this can strike some as fatalistic, it also provides a dose of reality and we actually see triumph in death through the words of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament book of 1 Thessalonians chapter 4.
Success is Personal
I attend an acting workshop one to two times per week where there are a number of talented artists working out with scenes and scripts. Their work rivals so many of the performances on television or films. Yet, nearly all of them will go unrecognized except by their closest peers. It’s tempting to look at an actor like Heath Ledger and feel a twinge of envy – or downright jealousy when looking at other performers. Yet, I’ve learned to define my own personal success through my marriage, family and the thrill of overcoming each day’s challenges.
In short, success and wealth can be defined through the number of high quality, supportive caring relationships we build and enjoy.
Death is Inescapable
This is a fact. And yet we don’t know how to go about dying. We rarely discuss it and are shocked when it occurs. When my mother was dying of bone cancer in 1999, the priest in my parents’ Orthodox church also worked with a local hospice organization. And he told me so few people really know how to die well: from preparing our estates, to reaffirming relationships with others. Even in the evangelical church I now attend, we almost treat death – or someone’s untimely death – with the attitude of “whoops!”
What Simmers Beneath the Surface?
As shocking as it was hearing about Heath Ledger’s death, a man I knew who was my age, committed suicide last year. He and his family attended our church until they moved away to Dallas. He returned to the Pasadena area to visit family and took his own life while on a trip back. His family was strikingly handsome, his kids got great grades (unlike a few of mine, ugh) and they had a good relationship. And, yet, there was a form of mental illness he had throughout his life almost no one knew about.
Despite the ever present knowledge of death facing us, we’re created for joy! I think through so many words in biblical books like Isaiah, the Psalms or in the New Testament that reflect God’s absolute love for His creation. It’s this security that gives me the chance to live joyfully even though I know my physical days will eventually end.
Leave a Good Legacy
How will you be remembered? Memorial services should inspire us to leave behind a positive mark on those around us.
Profound Thoughts are Good Thoughts
In the rush and hurry of our every day lives, it’s helpful and even necessary to reflect on the profound – to give proper perspective to how we live. Don’t brush off a death like that of Heath Ledger.
Instead, let it impact you.