Updated: Sep 2, 2020
My son broke the news, "Mom, Chadwick Boseman died," he uttered with a cracked voice, shock, pain and grief in his eyes. "He died of colon cancer. They say he had it for four years."
An intense mood gripped our home as my son looked up at the poster that hung in his room while fighting back tears.
It was a gut punch. We were thrown into the level of grief you'd expect when losing a family member all the while feeling an increased level of reverence for him realizing that this icon was dying before our eyes while simultaneously living his best life and inspiring millions of people.
We'd previously seen "42," the movie based on the story of Jackie Robinson. And I'd seen "Marshall" based on Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice. Chadwick also played James Brown in the movie, "Get on Up." He repeatedly potrayed giants before embodying the role of superhero.
But Black Panther was our all-time favorite, one shared by millions around the world as it became the highest grossing superhero movie in North America upon its release. This is a story of a King that fights his way to the crown, after losing his father, and doesn't rest in victory on a thrown. He is the first in every battle thereafter.
He wasn't a King expecting to be served but a leader that inspired others to fight right alongside him. "WAKANDA FOREVER!" is more than a statement. It's a battle cry that resounded worldwide from the belly of a nation and a people that are constantly underestimated but found themselves more empowered to be themselves.
And Boseman did not rest on his laurels or past successes. He used his influence to encourage young people fighting fatal diseases. This concept isn't new. But to know that he made it his selfless mission to personally visit and uplift youth diagnosed with cancer while he fought the same disease and never uttering a complaint is mind-blowing.
Chadwick was unapologetic about his faith. He was a Christian that spoke passionately about purpose. Knowing it....embracing it....fulfilling it. And he did just that.
Picture a black man from the south who knew what it was to live in an unjust world. Still he energized the next generation while paying homage and deference to the past. Not only did he play historic figures, he also publicly acknowledged those that had gone before him.
Boseman proudly recounted the story of having his tuition to Oxford Univeristy covered by Denzel Washington. Or as he put it, "none other than the dopest actor on the planet." He's wrapped up by excaliming, "There is no Black Panther without Denzel Washington ... And not just because of me, but my whole cast, that generation stands on your shoulders." He modeled honor so well it was contagious. The more he paid tribute to others, the more he influenced others to do the same.
And his self-respect was bar-none. He'd turn down roles that sought to perpetuate negative stereotypes. "Sometimes you need to get knocked down before you can really figure out what your fight is and how you need to fight it," he stated during his commencement speech at his alma mater, Howard University in 2018. "Whatever you choose for a career path, remember, the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose," he said. "When I dared to challenge the system that would relegate us to victims and stereotypes with no clear historical backgrounds, no hopes or talents, when I questioned that method of portrayal, a different path opened up for me, the path to my destiny."
My children have always looked up to Chadwick Boseman. But my respect for him multiplied when I heard of his fight with cancer. As someone who is also dying a slow and painful death, who has procedures more days in a month than not, and is also going through chemo - I found myself more motivated to expunge every bit of energy I have left.
Boseman quoted Jeremiah 29:11 during his speech at Howard, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (NIV). Knowing he was dying when he stated it, I can only imagine he wasn't speaking of an earthly future. But one that would trascend time.
My illness is progressive. It's only a matter of time before I lose basic functions like speech and mobility. But I plan to ride this body till the wheels fall off. To live a life of God-ordained purpose until I join Him for all eternity.
Because as stated in Marvel's movie Black Panther, "In my culture, death is not the end." But I hope to leave a mark on this world and encourage my children to build a God honoring legacy.
Legacy doesn't come with a timeline and is not associated with a particular age. Faithfully serving is not about showing up, it's about showing out. You did just that while fighting with incredible strength and grace.
Now rest in peace T'Challa. Thank you for making the heaviness of this world seem lighter, the darkness seem brighter and giving my children an increased sense of purpose.
Let's Discuss This:
- Who inspires you to be better?
- How do you work on discovering your purpose?
- How can you leave a legacy?
(Photo Credit: Marvel Studios ®)