Friday, June 21, 2013

Tony Soprano Died, and You Did Too

Carmela: You could have killed those girls.
A.J.: Now that would have been interesting.
Carmela: What? What did you just say?
A.J.: Death just shows the ultimate absurdity of life.
Tony: What is this? Are you trying to get me to lose my temper? Cause I'm about to put you through that Goddamn window.
A.J.: See? That's what I mean. Life is absurd.
Carmela: Don't say that! God forgive you.
A.J.: There is no God.

Tony and Carmela: HEY!!! 

The above dialogue is one of many classic scenes from the brilliantly-written HBO series The Sopranos. James Gandolfini, who played the main character, Tony Soprano, died Wednesday.  Before July 13, 2011, the day that my husband died, I would have reacted to the news of this celebrity death like most "normal", non-widowed people do; posting quotes and pictures and video of their work, maybe putting up a generic "RIP" type-statement all over my Social Media pages, maybe even making a lighthearted joke or two (since I am a comedian and that is what I do), and then moving on with my happy, normal life. Clueless. Unaffected. Innocent. 

Not anymore. I know better. My reaction to a celebrity death, especially someone I greatly respected and admired like Gandolfini, is completely different now. When I found out by scrolling through my Facebook feed, that the actor had died, my body went into panic mode. Anxiety started to set in as I began to read the details of his death.

 "Age 51. Sudden and massive heart-attack. Went to use the restroom and collapsed. Rushed to hospital by ambulance, paramedics tried reviving him for 45 minutes, and he died in the ER a short time later. " Every single one of these things are the same things that happened to my husband, Don. He also collapsed after using the restroom at work and not feeling right. He was also given CPR and treated to no avail in the ambulance, and died a short time later in the ER. He also had a massive and sudden heart-attack. No symptoms. No reason. Just here, then gone. 

Gandolfini was on a "guy's vacation" trip in Italy with his young son, when he fell ill and later passed away. His wife was not on this trip, which means she was at home at the time of his death, probably doing something completely innocent like grocery shopping or paying bills, or maybe she was doing what I was doing when my husband was collapsing on that cold, hard floor - sleeping. Whatever she was doing while her husband was dying, she will torture herself and feel guilt about it probably for the rest of her life, just like I do. She will never be okay with the fact that she wasn't there. 

James Gandolfini was a huge voice and advocate for animal rescue, especially speaking out about the unfair labels put on Pitbulls. He was also a huge giver to charities, and spent a lot of time touring Iraq and Afghanistan, visiting soldiers and asking for their autographs, telling them "you are the real heroes.". My husband was a paramedic who helped animals in his spare time, by volenteering at an animal rescue shelter and helping with pet adoptions. He loved animals more than anyone I have ever known, and they loved him. He was also an Air Force veteran, who served during wartime in Desert Storm. Gandolfini was a New Jersey native, living in Bergen County. My husband and I also lived in Bergen County, New Jersey, during our entire short 7-years of engagement and marriage together. Gandolfini was on The Sopranos, and my husband and I watched and loved The Sopranos every single Sunday night together. In my mind, it was the best and most powerful TV drama of all-time. 

So, you could say that the death of Gandolfini brought up a lot of "stuff" for me. There was a lot of crying. It was the kind of crying that you dont think about. One second, you are sitting there, and the next second, you are crying. I cried for his wife, who will now be forced into this strange and horrid universe called Widow. I cried for his young son, who lost his daddy while on a TRIP with his daddy, just after Father's Day. I cried for what is to come for their family, their friends, their life. And then I cried for me, because his death suddenly became Don's death all over again, and there I was, once again engulfed in the fear and the grief and the pain and the overwhelming thoughts of WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING??? HOW IS THIS MY LIFE??? 

Then, all the thoughts that make no sense at all started rushing in. Like: "Holy Shit! Tony Soprano is dead! I have to tell Don!" It was the same way when other famous or notable, talented, well-known people died after my husband died. I kept wanting to tell him, because he was my husband, and my first instinct is to tell him things. When comedian Patrice ONeal died, I wanted to tell him, because he loved Patrice. When Whitney Houston died, I wanted to tell him, because he thought her voice was like an Angel. But each and every time, I would start the process of speaking the words or calling his number or sending a text, and then I would remember. As if I could ever really forget. I can't tell him that so - and - so is dead, because he is dead too. I can't ever tell him that anyone is dead, ever again. What a bizarre thought. It's just like A.J. Soprano said in the above dialogue with his parents: "Death just shows the ultimate absurdity of life." 

Yes, A.J. It sure does. 


  1. beautiful, thank you. All of it - exactly yes.

  2. Thank you for this. I too find any news story involving an unexpected death to be much more painful now, and I too lost my husband unexpectedly in 2011 after 7 years together. Knowing other people's stories helps make my day-to-day life a little more bearable.

  3. Kelley, this death hit me hard for two reasons. My husband was a "Soprano" addict. He was watching the show the day he died. My husband died suddenly as well.

    The second reason is as you eloquently pointed out, another widow in the world. Another lost, confused and pain stricken woman going through the motions but feeling nothing but numbness and shock. I NEVER want to go back to those early days. NEVER, EVER, EVER.....

    Thank you for your inspiring words!

  4. Thank you for this. On Wednesday, here in Minnesota news came of the death of author Vince Flynn. I read some of his books, listened to him on local radio, my Dad and brothers read his books. It is the fact that he was 47, had cancer for 2 1/2 -3 years and then died that took me back to April 9th, 2011 when my fiancé Pat died, age 47, cancer and about 3 years out from his first occurrence.

    I can home from work and just sat outside and cried and listened to stories of Vince from the same radio shows where I had heard him many times before. Recalling conversations with my Dad (died August 2011) on how great of a writer Vince was/is and how it was a bond between my Dad and myself and how that is gone too.

    So sad that another family has to live through this and learn how to get on with life again. Sad for the triggers, such as this, they will have to deal with now, as all of us have to deal with.

    Thanks for this post, it helps remind me I am not alone or crazy. It's all just part of life now. Good and bad minutes, hours, days, weeks....

  5. I,too, get it and I wish nobody had to go through this. We got a little dog for my husband after many years of letting cancer dictate that we had too much on our plate for a dog. All three dogs from that litter went to various family members. The week of Camp Widow East, one of the dogs died and I just sat and sobbed. People who don't love animals and/or have never lost the love of their life may not understand how important this set of "triplets" are to our family. I feel the same way for celebs families also or for non-celebs. We get it but this is something we never wanted to understand. Thanks for the open door to have this little discussion.

  6. I, too, have the same reaction. I imagine what the days and hours were like for me - funeral arrangements, baths, explaining over and over to my young son that Daddy isn't coming back, crying spurts on the cold bathroom floor. And I think about the long road the widow or family members have ahead, continuing life with someone important missing.

    In the end, I just hope that over time, they find peace. And I hope you do, too. Hang in there today.

  7. My heart goes out to his children. He has a teen and a wee one, is that right? I was just shy of 11 when I watched my dad say his last words and take his last breath. Losing a parent is a horrific thing to happen to a child. I don't know how I would have survived without other good male mentors. I pray his children have good men to count on too. His beautiful wife, my wish for her is that she finds you and your friends.

  8. My heart breaks for it's suddenness also, and for the wife and kids and their life is altered. I believe it doesn't escape people even if they are wealthy. What frustrates is that unless you have felt the grief, most people that have posted online are greiving a persona, not the part of the person who really mattered.