Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Laughter That Lives On

Like so many other people, I was saddened to hear about the death of Gene Wilder. Having grown up on yearly (and more than yearly with the advent of VCRs and DVDs) viewing of Willy Wonka, and enjoying immensely his roles in assorted other movies, I couldn't help but think "end of an era," "everybody's dying," and all those things we think as we cull through numerous tributes and obituaries posted online.

Perhaps it is the end of an era. But perhaps, in some ways, an era of sorts ends every day. Gene Wilder's movies are no less alive and part of our collective culture than they were before he died. He leaves to us a body of work that will keep people smiling and laughing for years to come. If any of us were to die tomorrow, but could say that we were leaving behind contributions that would help enrich the lives of so many, wouldn't we call that a life well-lived?

I didn't know Gene Wilder personally. I simply enjoyed his movies and enjoyed reading both his autobiography and that of his wife Gilda Radner. But, as the world mourns his death, I give thanks for his life--and for the reminder that any of us, whether on a big scale, like his, or on a small one, can leave behind gifts that make a difference. Whether we are creating art, or supporting charity, whether we are giving laughter to many, or simply time and love to the people close to us, we have the opportunity to leave things that matter, to make a difference, simply by doing, and sharing, what we love.

RIP, and thanks, Gene Wilder. As Wilder's Willy Wonka put it, "Want to change the world? There's nothing to it."

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