The Boy Who Lived and the Man Who Died: The Wizarding World and Its Very Real Discourse on Death
Last month, I had to say goodbye to the man who raised me and – at age 25 – learn to live the rest of my life without him. He was a very laid-back sort of man – very inclined to go with the flow, almost to the point where if you wanted him to make a decision, he would defer to somebody else immediately. He was silly, stubborn as all hell, and loved to play jokes on people and “poke the bear,” as it were. He could all at once be intensely aggravating and innocently adorable depending on which side he felt like showing that day. But most of all, he was kind, giving, and accepting. Though his indifference often seemed like a lack of caring to me, I realize now that sometimes it exhibited something that is rare: a general acceptance of what you are given.
Although I was close with my father, we never really had much in common in the way of interests. He enjoyed car races. I enjoyed the theater. He enjoyed cooking shows. I read books. Sometimes, I would feel frustrated because it seemed like we couldn’t converge our interests on anything, and one would be bored out of their mind trying to placate the other.
That was not the case when it came to Harry Potter.
I would be busy with school. He would be busy watching TV, working dispatch, or toward his end times, spending time in the hospital. No matter how little our worlds meshed, there was always something that brought us together. Sometimes, he would make the journey from his room to mine. Sometimes, I would receive a text either from across the house or from his hospital room. And since my birthday is in November, which is more or less when wizarding world movies are released, he would take me to the movies every year as my birthday present.
‘Harry Potter’ is on [insert channel number].
Sometimes, I would be too busy to turn it on until an hour later. Sometimes, I would turn it on immediately, and because our TVs were so close, you could hear Daniel Radcliffe’s voice reverberate throughout my house. Sometimes, I would do my college work with it in the background, not able to fully pay attention but wanting my dad to know that I appreciated him thinking of me every time.
It even expanded to other shows that the actors were in. As an amateur medievalist, one of my favorite genres is anything in that romantic era. Dad also enjoyed these, including TV series such a BBC’s Merlin. Of course, when I introduced him to Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, his short but astute memory shortened it to “Robin Hood with Snape.”
Throughout all the years of going to see the movies with him and my aunt, crying over Dobby’s death, and his crying over Jacob’s lost memory in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Harry Potter has been a huge part, if not the cornerstone, of our father-daughter relationship.
When he was in a rehabilitation facility, I made him take the House quiz because out of all the burning questions I could ask him, that was the most important in my nerdy little brain. That is why I bought him a Niffler (which he playfully mispronounced as a “nipple”), knowing full well that I would probably inherit it within the next few months, just so he could have something of me when I was not there, and I could be reminded of him later when I needed it. That is why I keep repeating, “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love“ (DH 35); “Death is but the next great adventure” (SS 17); and most importantly, “He greeted Death as an old friend” (DH 21). My father made some hard choices, which led to a very hard life and a difficult ending. I will miss him every day, but if the wizarding world has taught me anything, it is that the ones “we have loved [never] truly leave us” (PoA 22).