Yesterday, I learned that one of my friends died of cancer.
He was a grad student at the University of Alabama, getting his MFA in directing. I didn’t know him as well as many in the department, didn’t hang out with him or work with him as often as many others, but I did know him and saw him most every day I was in the theatre building during his years there. Whenever I saw him, he always had a smile and would always, happily, greet me with a “Hey, Sean!” And the shows he directed were fantastic. In particular, “Flora, The Red Menace” became one of my favorite shows at UA, and had some of my favorite cast stories to go with it, such as him shouting “Macbeth” every time he walked onstage. Even when actors got sick, that didn’t stop him or make him put any stock in the nonsensical superstitions so many have in theatre.
He also gave me one of my favorite wall posts for my birthday on Facebook. Last year, he wrote: “‘Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.’ ~Dr. Seuss” and included a happy birthday at the end. It’s an encouraging quote, particularly for me as a writer and for me as someone lacking confidence most days of my life. The biggest regrets I have about him is not spending time with him or getting to work with him… and taking my birthday down from Facebook this year and missing another great quote I know he would have put on my wall.
He was immensely talented, extremely good humored, a constant beam of positive feelings and happiness. If I can positively affect even a hundredth of the people I know he’s given a single moment of uplifting to, I will feel like I have achieved something wonderful.
Heaven has called another angel home. Your friends left behind will miss you dearly, Matthew Burkholder.