On the night of July 13, I was on the floor of my best friend’s sister’s bedroom when I got the news. The house was full of people sleeping all over the floor, but I had lucked out with some peace and quiet. I had spent the day at a banquet hall in NJ celebrating her Sweet 16—the court, the DJ, the formal get-up, the whole shibbang—and it had been an incredibly fun night. I could never have expected the text I was about to receive.
I have only two friends who share my hardcore Gleek status. One was asleep in NC. I had spent all night with the other, who began this conversation with me no more than an hour after she had left the after-party:
I furiously scoured the internet for a full hour, the glow of my phone on my face the only light in the room. My brain would not accept what it was reading. I alerted my sister, who was at home in bed. Then her best friend chimed in. We combed through every entertainment news outlet, searching, I feel, for an entry that would confirm that it was all a publicity hoax.
Cory Monteith, 31, found dead in his Vancouver hotel room.
And my first thought was, Lea.
Two weeks later, my heart still breaks for Lea Michele. For the entire Glee family, of course, but for her especially. As I read through the endless news articles and Twitter condolences in the days that followed the tragic news, the trending topic that punched me in the gut was #PrayForLea. Then I listened to my favorite Finchel duet, “Faithfully.” Then my eyes finally spilled over.
This is the first time a celebrity death has truly affected me. We’ve had massive losses in recent years, but this was an actor who portrayed a beloved character on one of my favorite shows and therefore held a personal connection to me. I even saw him live in concert when the cast went on their massive tour in the summer of 2011. So there was a tiny voice in the back of my head whispering a disbelieving, “Oh my God…Cory?”
I was listening to the radio on my way home from work last week when Ryan Seacrest confirmed that heroine had showed up in the toxicology report. I audibly gasped. I knew, as did everyone who had been paying attention, that he’d struggled with addiction and had been in rehab just a few months ago. I guess it just didn’t click that he’d be into something so, well, lethal. And the fact that he’d wanted to get clean, that Ryan Murphy staged an intervention and told him it was time to go, that Lea supported him whole-heartedly—to see him succumb anyway makes it all that much more devastating.
Gleeks know Monchele’s love story and therefore feel this loss poignantly. It’s made especially painful by thinking of their fictional counterparts and I think there was a point where each of us thought, even though it wasn’t appropriate to think such things yet, what will happen to Finchel?
Thought Catalog, one of my favorite sites to visit daily, posted an article on the 14th by author Mike Astuccio entitled, “I’ll Miss You, Finn Hudson.” The paragraph that resonates with me most deeply is this:
“Retroactively, every moment of the show is stained with sadness and finality — the last time Rachel and Finn kiss, the last time Finn sings (side note: Monteith’s Glee run is bookended by performances of “Don’t Stop Believing”), the last time Finn stands in the choir room, the last time Finn hugs Kurt, the last time Finn seeks guidance from Mr. Shue, the last time Finn stands in a show choir circle with all of his friends, the last time Finn smiles. The death of Cory Monteith affects all of these moments and obliterates the mystery of a happy ending — there can’t be one.”
When Ryan Murphy finally spoke to E! about the tragedy and how the show will proceed, I can’t say I was surprised with their plan to write Finn’s death, in fact, I hoped for it. It’s the only proper way to truly memorialize Cory and tie up what should have been our happiest love story. It’s the only way to say goodbye. At the same time, I dread this episode, fearing Murphy’s vision of an “upbeat tribute” will somehow cheapen our sadness … but knowing Lea holds the reins gives peace of mind.
There is one thing to be taken from this tragedy and that is the fact that television can, in fact, tie perfect strangers together into an unbreakable bond. Fandoms become families. The outpouring of love displayed all over the internet has been incredibly comforting. In the wake of such heartache, I’m proud to still be a Gleek when so many of my friends have given up on the show. There is an equal exchange of joy between this show and its fans. We take the genuine positivity and the simple pleasure of a well-executed song and we give it right back to the cast we’ve grown to look at as friends with our undying support and love.
And so, my heart is with the actors … with Ryan … with Lea … and with Cory …
We’re forever yours, faithfully.