Of death, art, and life

Dear Mary,

Sharon is gone.

Or maybe, rather than ‘gone’ I should say that she is dead; because she cannot, and she will never, be gone for me.

I am writing this after having listened to your podcast yesterday. While I am still not sure I will ever come to see Sharon’s death as you see it, I am deeply grateful for your honesty, for your courage to say what you already knew we were not expecting to hear, and for the respect you show us in addressing our emotions and opening up yours to us.

Many feelings have been triggered in me by Sharon’s ending and by your words; many have surfaced on these days of true, real grief: as you once said, every emotion is real. This applies to fictional characters just the same. I was shaking and crying already as I started watching the episode three days ago. Fiction is life and if there is anything that our pain proves is that we are, too, so very alive. Grieving is the price you pay for loving, and it is always worth paying. Thus, these days I have been opening my eyes in the morning and I have immediately felt the pain kick in along with the return of my consciousness, just like it has always happened with each and every one of the people I have loved and lost so far. I have lived and suffered enough to recognize the pattern; I accept I have an undetermined number of difficult days, weeks, and even months ahead. I remind myself that it is not insane: insane would be not to feel anything.

Speaking for myself in all honesty (and also for many others, I believe) you were the reason I started watching Major Crimes, and remained the main reason I kept at it. Thus, even without the anger and the grief, even with a perfect ending or with Sharon alive somewhere else instead of dead, it is just natural that I have lost interest in the series. It is not your fault, it is not the cast’s or the crew’s, nor the writers’, and it is not my fault either. It just is what it is; it happens naturally. Once I have acknowledged this truth, I can take one more step and say this: because I follow you wherever you go I got to discover this beautiful show, these compelling storylines, and other extraordinary actors. A crime show with a tender heart, a care for the human side of everyone involved (the division, the victims, the criminals), and a deep sense of ethics. It would never have happened had you not been in it. Thus, this is how the give and take of life materializes itself on this occasion. This is how my relationship with Major Crimes comes full circle. This is what I get by giving myself to it; by deciding it is worthy of my time, my attention, my devotion, my passion, my crazily late nights or wildly early mornings to be able to watch it at an inhuman Spain hour, and the subsequent days at work which pass in a state of exhaustion and a dreamy state of mind populated by the Major Crimes characters. You are the reason I have been doing all this: in return, I discovered a very beautiful world along the way.

I will watch the remaining episodes, even if it is not with the same excitement and anticipation as I used to feel. But I am sure there will be moments and performances in them worthy of my time. And I also suspect I will still get to learn details about Sharon, to see some situations evolve around her even if she is not there anymore. Part of me is reluctant, maybe out of fear of plunging into the sorrow over and over again; but the other part does not want to miss it. And I believe that, in life, we have the moral obligation to go for the most positive course of action whenever we can, and we also should always keep going, keep flowing.

The pain will subside, the grief will become something else with time and as it does, the anger will settle because anger and grief often are two sides of the same coin. I said before that I still cannot see some things as you see them, and I admit this leaves me a little bit unsettled because you are certainly the woman who knows Sharon best so my chances to be right are meager to say the least. Obviously, I have not been privy to the ins and outs of the creative process, either. But I also have to trust my own interpretation of the events; I need to stay true to my feelings. What I will never do is to stubbornly lock myself into my own vision. I will let things pass, I will let your words sink in, I will keep talking with my fandom friends about this, I will let time do its job, and I will naturally welcome whatever outcome results from this process with an open mind and heart. If there has to be a shift in my opinion or my feelings, I certainly will not resist it. And even if in, let’s say, six months, I still think and feel pretty much the same as I do now, the process will have been, in itself, enriching and worth my while. Actually, it is enriching already, thanks to your words on the podcast: it is good that you can tell us that Sharon putting a bullet in Stroh’s head would have been the cliché for you; it is good that we can tell you that Sharon ignoring the rules and the signs and having heart attack after heart attack until one of them is finally fatal does not feel quite like her. Just to name one random thing. It is good, it is even necessary that we get to share our thoughts, to hopefully find some truth in each other’s words (who is always right in life or has the complete and perfect vision of anything?). I am deeply grateful for the respect you have shown for our feelings and thoughts, Mary. You would never have taken the time to record a podcast and to disagree with us if it were not because you think our experience is important.

Besides, I strongly believe that in many things in life there is no absolute right or wrong, least of all in art. My favorite Spanish musician says that no song is complete until she shares it, and once she does, it becomes something else because we (the audience) make it ours. I see Sharon’s ending, and any piece of art, pretty much the same way. The creators create, the artists do their job. Then they share it and anything can happen from that moment on. And quite often, it is also in sharing that the great works of art become even greater: in the points of view they elicit, in the teachings the audience finds in them that the creator never intended… it is then that art transcends. The audience can also be the cruelest judge of a piece of art work, and the finest artists in history were often misunderstood in their country or their time, only to die in misery and be praised when they were no longer there to hear it. No criticism should ever lack respect, or be unfair. Nobody should be destroyed, put to shame or criticized with cruelty over a work of art: the human aspect of the issue must always come first. This is one of the things that lay on the background of your words on the podcast, this was part of the subtext, or at least this is one of the things I understood. And it rings absolutely true.

You also addressed the issue of art being a true mirror of reality versus being an escape from it, a safe place to fall back in. I agree with you a hundred per cent. Have we not noticed how absurd and meaningless life can be at times? Why should Sharon Raydor be any different from us in this? I am not one to be very fond of safe places, and especially when it comes to new experiences, to pushing my boundaries further and to exploring thoughts and emotions, I am in for pretty much anything. I certainly do not need art to stroke my back: I want it to challenge me. I guess it is not for nothing that my favorite show is Battlestar Galactica (well, now that I think of it, you were in it too: that might have played a role in my preference…). Nobody would have advised me to watch BSG in such a low and dark moment, as sick as I was when I did so. However, it helped. A lot. It was (along with an exceptional doctor) the most important piece to my recovery. It is often hard (if not impossible) to heal without hurting, either emotionally or physically. By the way, I am not bringing up BSG in order to draw comparisons with Laura Roslin or with her death; it is just an example. I have this tendency to ask myself how the issues and dilemmas of my daily life would have been addressed in BSG, by its creators or by the characters. ‘It’s not you, it’s me’: I am biased like this.

During the first two days after Sharon’s death I have been holding back the darkest part of my emotions in public because I did not want to hurt you. You have gone through your own grieving process which I am sure has been tougher than ours (and possibly it is not even over yet) and neither needed nor deserved our anger to put more salt on the wound. Your performance was the most extraordinary thing I have seen on a screen and you certainly had given Sharon (and us too) your very best. It was not fair that we made you feel bad about it. It might have felt as ingratitude on our part, even. For the measure in which my most recent comments might have contributed to your grief or your anger, I want to apologize here. And I want to do it because it is fair, because you deserve it, and because you so deeply and truthfully respect us.

No moment or work of fiction has ever moved me like Laura Roslin’s death. As I grieved her I was positive I would never feel like that for a fictional character again.

Yet here I am.

Here I am overcome by sudden crying fits, avoiding music, waking up in distress in the middle of the night, barely able to draw a lasting smile on my own face, overwhelmed by my tiniest responsibilities, totally not ready for any kind of social exchange.

And I am starting to figure it out. It is not just about Laura; it is not even just about Sharon, as recent as her passing is.

I blame it on something I am coming to call ‘The Mary effect’.

Don’t get me wrong: you are not a source of sadness but of pure joy and inspiration in my life, Mary. The Mary effect rather stands for that extra amount of emotion you experience when confronted with something exceptional. The Mary effect is the realization of a deeper depth in my life simply because you are there, because you have touched a certain piece of art, because it is you who have incarnated them, those wonderful women. The Mary effect is a surplus of intensity, an overdose of quality, the gratitude that blossoms in you when you realize someone is giving their best for you to enjoy, and to help you grow. The Mary effect is that next step towards a richer life that you cannot take unless you find the person who would inspire you to take it. The Mary effect makes you feel always a little more, get a little further, and be a little stronger. It knocks you down as much as it lifts you up.

Across the years I have also come to appreciate that The Mary effect is made by grace, by joy, by giggles, by happy laughter. It is the hand that takes mine and holds it tight as I walk the ways she has (you have) painted for me with her (your) performances.

I am grieving so hard right now because I am under The Mary effect, but I also know that, under The Mary effect, my joy and my passion are also so much bigger and genuine.

I am under The Mary effect. And I would not have it any other way.

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