By now, everyone knows that Prince died. This is terribly sad, but this is not what really got to me.
On Thursday night, Michelle McNamara died.
Michelle Eileen McNamara was a true crime writer, creator of the True Crime Diary website, and wife to the comedian Patton Oswalt. She died in her sleep. She was only 46 years old. She left behind her husband and their seven-year-old daughter Alice.
Prince lived a full life, albeit a short one. Prince was a self-contained unit, a genius who stridently walked his own path. But he leaves no child behind to grow up without a parent. He accomplished what he wanted in life, and has hundreds of unreleased songs to keep him in our memory.
Patton Oswalt now has to raise his seven-year-old daughter by himself. When she is older, he will have to share his memories with her, to remind her that mommy was the best woman he’d ever met and to help keep Michelle alive in her mommy’s head.
Because Oswalt is an atheist, he is certain he will never see her again. The only life she has now is in his memory.
So Prince’s death was sad, but a closed loop. McNamara’s death was a true tragedy.
Perhaps because I got more enjoyment out of Oswalt’s art than in Prince’s, this hits me harder. I really liked Prince. But I bought every one of Oswalt’s albums and saw every special he was a part of. I followed his career since the 90s. I think that his comedy is really special.
In the last few years, Patton Oswalt’s standup included his wife and daughter. One thing was manifest: how utterly he loved them with every atom in him.
Now, I am certain he feels broken. He has a seven-year-old to comfort. He doesn’t have the ability to just lose it. He has to stay strong despite this huge trauma. He has friends, he has the love of his fans, but he is alone now.
Gods know, I wish he wasn’t. But for a while he is.
Yet, he is not. He is beloved by millions.
However, the love of his fans is a weak bulwark. We are virtual people. He knows people love his comedy… what he does for us. But that is a weak reed to lean upon. What he really needs are his friends and family.
Although I love his art and his thought with something akin to a blazing fire, I am neither. I am only a fan.
I wish there was something I could say.
But really, there isn’t anything I can say. Because of the long divide between audience and artist, we can only watch and weep for his daughter and him. This divide is necessary because we as an audience would demand so much. One reason to never meet your heroes is the risk of draining them due to your need for their art.
Patton Oswalt and his daughter Alice are in need right now. I personally don’t know what to give them. But I would if I knew. I would give it all.
It’s the least I owe him for decades of laughter.