Paul Walker and the Bereaved

Oh, Paul…
Fans and friends continue to mourn Paul Walker who died in a fiery crash Saturday.

He raced into our hearts as Brian O’Connor although he had been flirting around the outskirts for a good while. The Fast and the Furious was not his first movie nor was it his first time in front of a camera. No, Paul Walker had been around for awhile. But his role as Detective Brian O’Connor changed things. We who like a good action movie with pimped out cars and “lay-me-back-in-my-seat” speed identified with the movie franchise. We could identify with the choices between needing to belong to a “family” and loyalty to the job. We cheer for that guy. We become involved.

Therefore, when Paul Walker, a professed gearhead, and one who in real life mirrored to some degree what we saw on screen – a good-natured car enthusiast who cared about others – abruptly died, it seems like everyone took notice. We stomped the brakes in our lives to find out what was going on.

I was flipping through my cellphone when TMZ first reported the actor’s death. I was shocked. I hoped it was a hoax, and it became my mission to find out as much as possible. Was it true? Could it be? My heart beat so rapidly at the news. Alas, it was true. Paul was gone…and so was his most memorable character, Brian.

While we know that filming for the next installation of the Fast and the Furious – Fast 7 – was currently underway, it is unclear what will become of that movie. Everyone is in grief. My own grief shocked me. Laid me bare. And when I saw the footage of the wreck and how Tyrese responded upon visiting the site … wow. It threw me. What a terrible way to die.

Car = unrecognizable.

Crash = unsurvivable.

It disturbed me to the point that I questioned myself: “Why do I care so much about someone that I NEVER met?” What’s up with that? And then I knew. Grief knows no boundaries. Grief simply is.

Paul and Roger (the driver) were fellow human beings. No one deserves to die like that. It hurt because Paul was so relatable. We saw him at the movies and welcomed him into our homes via the television. He was a part of the fabric of our movie-going experiences. He was “family” – the whole Fast Family felt like people we know and love. And in person, in real life, Paul was a Reach Out World Wide good guy. Those who actually knew him attest to that fact. His actions outside of Hollywood prove the same. Like the time he bought a ring for a newly wed military couple.

He wasn’t the ordinary, fame-loving celebrity. He was different. People would send him pictures of their cars that they were restoring and he would comment back on Twitter. Earnest opinions and responses. No movie star fluff. He loved cars. Especially the fast, performance driven ones (per a video/interview he gave).

Grief is hard. I think I was in shock Satuday night when I finally went to bed. And Sunday, when I went to church, I prayed the whole way there for his family. His friends. For those who mourn in his passing. My heart felt heavy on Monday, and I began to wonder just why was the death of an actor – a person I didn’t know – was consuming me. I prayed more. And then I remembered the simple truth, and it is this. Every man has only a certain number of days.

Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass; – Job 14:5

And when those days are done, they are done. Paul had 40 years. And while I could argue that it was not enough time and that he needed more … deserved more…taking up that stance would mean that I would be in disagreement with the God I serve. I believe that God makes no mistakes. His will is perfect. I also believe that each person has freewill. A right, if you will, to make their own choices. And, as heartbreaking as it is, Paul made a choice. He got into the car under his own freewill. And for whatever reason, be it mechanical or mistake, both he and Roger would not get out alive. I find it eery looking at the last photo of Paul, wearing those dark shades that black out those beautiful blue eyes, looking into the very side of the car where he would die. It’s kind of like looking into your own casket.

Contrary to some reports, I don’t believe that Roger was racing with someone else. I do believe that he was speeding. It was afterall a fast car – a light car – an expensive car. And because Paul is on video admitting that he himself has driven up to 197mph in the past, and they were both race car drivers, I don’t find it hard to believe that speed was a factor. Yet, it’s still sad.

I wish things were different but we all make our choices. And when it’s our time, it’s our time. I can only hope that Paul knew my Lord. I can only hope that Paul had a relationship with God. Roger too. I hope they had “their business straight” and are now at peace.  It’s hard right here at the holidays to say goodbye to cherished ones. So, for those who grieve, please know:

1. It’s alright to grieve.
Go ahead and feel what you feel. Cry. Scream. Let your hair down and do it. You don’t have to be strong. Just let go. Let the tears flow. Your family and friends may not know what to say but that’s okay. Let them know that they don’t have to say anything. By just being with you, it is enough.

2. Don’t be a faker.
This is almost like #1. Too many times, people are waiting for the bereaved to give them some indication of how they are coping with the loss. If you act like everything is fine, you sell yourself short. You deny the people who care about you the opportunity to help in comforting you – and thereby comforting themselves to some degree. So, don’t act like you’re fine when you’re not. Be in the moment. Grieve.

3. Take your time.
Take time to reflect on the person. Take time to mourn the loss of what you had and what you had hoped would be. Your life is different now. And it takes some getting used to. So, take some time to get accoustomed to life without that person. Don’t allow anyone to rush you.

4.  Don’t get stuck.
Now, although it is healthy to grieve, it’s not healthy to get stuck in your grief. I’ve done that before. So, I would encourage you to really take a moment to access your situation. Remember what has been lost. But also, remember what you have to gain. You are still here. And there is a reason for that. Your purpose has never been for just one thing or one person. You are here for a reason – find that out and then live that out. You can be happy again. Take it one day at a time.

So, for those of us who mourn Paul, think of your favorite character and tell him thank you and good-bye. I think of Brian O’Connor most. It’s that character that really raced into my heart. I think of him and Mia and baby Jack…living out their lives in private now. No longer fugitives. Just living. And when I think of Paul the man, his daughter Meadow and his girlfriend Jasmine, I have chosen to take his father’s advice. Since he loved the outdoors and the ocean, I think of Paul on the beach with his surfboard, facing the ocean, about to go out into the waves. He’s smiling. I choose to to remember him like that. Happy.

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