Death: A Private Matter In A Public Forum

by Amy L. Silva Rigtrup

Batman led me to this week's topic on The Silva Lining.

I am a mother of 4 year old twin boys who are obsessed with Batman and Robin. As most parents can attest to, your kids' obsessions become your own. Needless to say, anything about Batman peaks my interest. So earlier this year, I found a documentary on Netflix called Legends of the Knight, about people who are embracing the essence of Batman in different ways. This documentary introduced me to Leonard B. Robinson - The Route 29 Batman. 

A viral video of him getting pulled over in his Batmobile, in full costume, brought him internet fame, but his "mission" is what's truly remarkable. This man spent years and thousands of dollars visiting children's hospitals spreading joy and hope to every child he met. He would bring these sick children comic books and toys and tell them, "Do Batman a favor and get better". I was so moved by what this man did and couldn't wait to share his accomplishments with my little dynamic duo, hoping to inspire them to find their own mission.

This past August, I saw an article on The Washington Post that the Route 29 Batman had died. My heart literally stopped. I read article after article in disbelief - it couldn't be true. He had left a hospital, visiting children, one evening, still in costume, and his Batmobile broke down. He pulled over to check the engine and his car was struck by a passing car. My heart broke for his family and for all of the people whose lives he had touched. I couldn't stop crying for this horribly tragic loss. I didn't know him, but I felt that gut wrenching pain.

It made me think of the whole public dynamic of death. I'm so grateful that the way the world is now connects us all in ways it never could before. There may be lots of negativity and gossip on the news and media, but strung within it all is beauty, inspiration, stories of strength, perseverance, creativity and love. Celebrities whose art and passion have woven themselves into specific parts of our lives and helped us become who we are. When people like this die - we grieve. We may not have known them personally, but we do grieve. 

The difference between the nation that mourned Abraham Lincoln and the world that mourned Robin Williams is that we can engage. We have a forum. We can share how we feel, how we were touched, how we will remember. When we share, it is impossible to know how many people are reached and comforted and inspired to share themselves. I like to think that even the closest family members are reached, when they are ready to take it all in, because we've put it all out there for whenever they are ready to see it.

I also talked about a forum post that was highlighted recently on It was from about 4 years ago on Reddit (a forum type website that is like an online bulletin board) where someone simply posted, "My friend just died. I don't know what to do.". This man replied and I swear to you, it is the best grief advice I have ever read in my life. His username is GSnow, and if you are out there, I commend you, for your words - meant to comfort one person, reaching out for help in a time of need - have helped countless people. Here is his reply:

"I'm old. What that means is that I've survived (so far) and a lot of people I've known and loved did not. 

I've lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can't imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here's my two cents...

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. But I never did. I don't want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don't want it to "not matter". I don't want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. 

Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can't see.

As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too. 

If you're lucky, you'll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks."

So post, share, reach out, connect. There is beauty to be found and harnessed amidst all the chaos, negativity and gossip on the internet.

Whether family, celebrity, stranger or friend, your condolences could provide comfort, your advice could offer guidance, your story could spread awareness and help those that thought they were alone.

The Silva Lining is thankful for our wonderful sponsor:

St. Anthony of Padua Credit Union - We are proud to be sponsored by such an incredible bank, that in an age of conglomerate banks treating people like numbers, maintains a relationship with its members based on trust, friendly service and loyalty. With competitive rates for savings accounts and various loans, St. Anthony of Padua can handle all of your financial needs. Convenient online banking and more information at