Why it's okay to cry about Alan Rickman.

Before I'd opened my eyes this morning, there was a text waiting in my phone that Alan Rickman had died. I, like most people, had no idea he was sick. 

So I spent some time Googling him, reading about his life, his wife who he'd been with since 1965, his roles on stage and on film. And then came the tributes from actors and actresses who'd worked with him, from J.K. Rowling, from BBC News and other media outlets. 

And then came the tributes from the fans - it seemed like every post on my Facebook newsfeed this morning was about Alan Rickman's work. 

And then I started crying a little bit, because the posts were so sweet and so tender; because it's always sad when someone dies. And I couldn't help but feel a little silly that I was crying over someone I'd never met, who I'd never known personally, but only as characters in movies. 

Obviously this is not about me, gosh, no. But I wonder what the kind of tiny grieving we all do in moments like this says about the way our lives get touched by others. It's a special kind of sadness when people we don't know, but feel like we know, are gone. 

As I thought more about it, I don't think it's silly to cry. No, not one bit. 

We didn't know him, but we know the kind of work he produced. In the same way fans of David Bowie's work are mourning their memories this week, I have memories of watching Sense and Sensibility (over and over) with my mom, of Galaxy Quest being projected on a giant screen at my friend's farm, of Harry Potter midnight premieres, of Die Hard this last Christmas Eve in Tulsa.

And all those memories were brought to me in part by this person who found his gift early, and used it to play rich parts, to give joy and belly laughs and heart-panging sincerity to millions of people.

So I didn't know him, of course. But I know what he gave. And it's the loss of that kind of gift that I think we all mourn, somehow. And I think that's okay.

Because without acknowledging the sad parts of life - the parts that stick us right between the ribs, the parts that make us tear up before we even realize we felt something - how do the joyful parts of life have any meaning at all? I think, if you're brave enough to carve out the place in your heart where deep feelings live, then you're vulnerable to these waves of sadness and mind-boggling thrill. It's scary to be subject to your feelings, but oh man...

What a beautiful way to live.

Wouldn't you imagine that these artists - Bowie, Rickman, and their contemporaries - wouldn't you imagine they probably cried a little sometimes, too? Without that open heart, how can you really experience your life? How can you create work that's meaningful? That rings true across generations of people and lifestyles? I don't think you can. 

I think to live that way means you've connected with something transcendent - something that whispers that life isn't really about you. A freedom to let go of all your insecurities and anxiety and concern, and instead to give your gifts as freely as you can. 

So for all the torch bearers like these two wonderful men, who poured out their lives largely for public consumption, who helped to create some of our most precious and special memories about which they'll never know, we shed a few tears this week.

And then we go back to our lives, and hope that trying to live with an open heart can help to create even more moments of purity for us and for those around us.

May we not dam up our hearts and protect ourselves from our feelings. May we follow suit with the people who inspire us most - the transcendent ones - and seek to live outside that constant worry or regret. There is no limit to the amount of good we can do, maybe in just a few lives, if we decide to embrace a life like that.

Even when it's scary. Even when it doesn't feel great. For as long as we can. 

After all this time.