“Alan Rickman has died,” the voice on the radio said. My hand flew to my mouth and I gasped.

“Oh…no…that can’t be,” I murmured, and felt the prick of tears behind my eyes.

“Mommy, what’s wrong?” my daughter asked from the back seat, the concern in her voice evident, and I hastened to assure her all was okay, that nobody we knew was hurt or injured or anything like that. “Then why are your eyes wet?” she insisted.

And so I told her, “An actor I loved very much has died,” I said, “He played a role that I think was a very important one, and that I really admired and loved, too. And it saddens me that he is gone.”

“Oh,” she said, and nodded solemnly.

Look, people die every day. I know this. And sometimes in awful and horrible and tragic ways, nothing like a man who has, by all accounts, lived a full and meaningful life, passing away (so the news reports say) surrounded by those who loved and knew him best. And my day-to-day life will be no different now that Mr. Rickman is gone. But the stars, they feel a bit dimmer today. It seems like maybe something extra-special has been temporarily sapped from the Universe.

He’s gone, and I felt the loss when I heard it–for lots of reasons, but most of all, for these two reasons, 1) We need all the creative and graceful genius we can get in this life and Mr. Rickman gave us that. Others do too, and I’m grateful, but it’s sad to me that he will not be creating something new for us anymore.

And, 2) Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Severus Snape, potions master at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, across all 8 movies in the Harry Potter series…it was nothing short of masterful and graceful. Across the many years those films were made, he became Severus Snape, this man scorned and reviled by so many, but, in truth, the very heart of Harry’s survival and eventual triumph over Lord Voldemort. He was the epitome of complicated and torn and merciful, all at once, the most unlikely of heroes, and, as Harry Potter himself says to his own son, “the bravest man I ever knew.” If you’ve seen these movies, or read the books, you know of what I speak. If you have not…well, get to reading or watching. You have to start at the beginning to understand what I mean about Severus Snape. His is the most painful and beautiful both, of stories.

This is why the arts matter, people. This is why stories–even if (and especially often) made up ones–burrow under our skin and become part of who we are. This is why the deep passion that the likes of Robin Williams and Alan Rickman and others offered the world is so deeply missed when they’re gone. This is why we must keep telling stories. Raising artists. Nurturing the creativity of our children. It matters. Wholeheartedly and in ways we don’t even understand.

The interwebs, they’re booming (at least my corner of them) today with quotes from Alan Rickman’s various films…many of them Harry Potter, of course, as those stories have defined at least one, if not multiple generations. That’s legacy. And it is powerful. And we need as many of these bright lights in our world as possible.

There’s so much that’s ugly and heartbreaking. Artists such Mr. Rickman…they remind us of that which is lovely and healing.

And really, this is why I write. Not because I have to (though I do breathe easier when I am writing regularly). Not because I believe my voice to be wiser or better than anyone else’s (I often cringe reading my own words). Not because I’ll ever get rich (or even make a living) doing it. But because we have to keep talking about and exploring and acting out ideas…higher truths…grander purposes…whole picture ways of thinking and being that remind us how big and beautiful this world can be.

And how crucial each of us is in making it as such. Even a supposedly dark and evil potions master, who, as it happens, perhaps had the most honest and grace-filled heart of anyone and everyone around him.

Thank you, Alan Rickman. I am so glad you lived, so glad you helped us see so much goodness, so much heart, so much courage.