Death in Fiction - Part One

Captain's Blog - Stardate 60510.3

SPOILER ALERT: I will be mentioning key losses in popular (and not-so-popular) fiction in this series of blogs. If you haven't seen "Angel," "Buffy," "Star Trek: The Next Generation," or Harry Potter, these might not be good entries for you.

A common theme in many of my recent blogs is loss. Last November I had to say goodbye to my beautiful cat of fifteen years, Lana. Though I knew I would be a mess when her time came, I have been surprised by how difficult this time has been. I've always assumed that grief had a linear pattern with a beginning, middle and end. There are the "five stages" we always hear about: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Past of me simply expected to go through them in order instead of bouncing back and forth between them. 

A slight digression. When I took my master class with Betty Buckley, she reminded me of what can arguably be the main reason actors and writers do what we do. Our job is not to tell our story. Our job is to tell a tale that helps our audience along theirs.

When we laugh at a comedy it's not only because the cast is funny and the words are witty, but because most often we recognize a scenario or situation we've been in before. And when we weep at a tragedy, those telling the story have given us permission to release feelings we aren't always able to acknowledge in our day to day lives. They can also equip us with tools to deal with sorrow that we will need down the line.

So, I've been inspired to reflect on the fictional deaths that have had an effect on me over the years. I wanted to think about why they struck me and what I learned.

The Death of Tasha Yar
When I was ten years old, I fell in love with a series called "Star Trek: The Next Generation." My father insisted I check it out, despite the fact that I wasn't interested in any of his other television or film passions, including the original "Star Trek." But for whatever reason, this show spoke to me and I was instantly obsessed.

Of all the characters, my favorite was Tasha Yar. I wrote about this a little during Princess week. Her struggle to find her place in the world was one I didn't even know I was destined to identify with. However, unbeknownst to me at the time the actress, Denise Crosby, was not satisfied with her role and the decision was made to end the character's life. 

The worst part was, I knew it was coming. Sort of. The teaser trailer for the episode had aired the previous week and a "tragic farewell" was imminent. 

I remember sitting on our back porch at the small side table. I was eating spaghetti-o's and watched in disbelief as Tasha was hurled across the desert by the evil entity Armus. I was convinced that Doctor Crusher would beam her to the ship and save her life, but despite all her efforts, Tasha Yar died.

At the end of the episode, they held a memorial service for their fallen comrade and Tasha herself said her goodbyes by means of a pre-recorded hologram. In that moment she was able to thank all her friends for what they taught her and say a proper farewell. She let them all know that death in the line of duty was her expectation as a security officer and was at peace with it if it came. She was grateful for her life.

Her final comment resonates with me to this day and has been a mantra in times of loss. "Death is that state in which one exists only in the memory of others. Which is why it is not an end. No goodbyes. Just good memories." 

In a few years I would need the lessons learned from this fictional loss when I would lose a classmate and my grandmother within a month of each other. And as I'm writing this blog I realize I continue to need that lesson today. 

Hailing frequencies closed.