Monday, May 28, 2012

Picasso And Paul

Deb: Today myself, Colin, and the boy spent the afternoon at the Picasso exhibit at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario). We had planned it specifically as a healing and inspiring thing to do the day after our friend Paul’s funeral. Beyond the imagery that dominated the afternoon, I was struck by a quote. It said, “Picasso was a genius and he knew it.” All I could think of as we walked painting to sculpture, canvas to board, was that I wish Paul had known his own genius.
Paul O'Sullivan
The tragedy of Paul’s sudden and untimely death is, of course, his death. But the heartbreak that will stay with me is the fact that he did not know his worth. Not really. Not the way he should have.

Paul was a genius. I know that word is grossly overused, but in the world of comedy both scripted and improv, he was considered a genius. He was someone that every single person in our group was not only happy to work with, but thrilled to work with. He simply did the work. Just did it without the fru fra and the fan fare and the signposts. Just did the funny funny smart smart. We always talk in the acting work about commitment to character. Paul’s commitment was so deep that you were actually shocked at the end of the scene to see him return to Paul. The other thing that makes an actor great is strong choices. Paul’s acting choices were “The Hulk”. He dared. He jumped off cliffs. He went places and took you with him. And he respected where you were taking him and delighted in following you, all the while ramping up each of your offers with a sweet, irreverent, silly, crass, meaningful or truthful choice. Or sometimes all of those choices at once. He was a proud actor on stage. He lived there and, when you watched him, you lived where he lived.

But offstage I fear that Paul did not grasp his brilliance. More than that, I fear he had no idea the esteem in which he was held by his peers. If he was watching us yesterday, the hundreds and hundreds of us who gathered to pay tribute to his sweet memory, I am sure he would have wrongly assumed that there must have also been a wedding going on, or even another funeral. Because Paul never ever would have surmised that this weeping laughing throng was all for him.

Paul, I wish I had said out loud to you that you were brilliant. I wish I had told you out loud that Colin and I revered you for your talent. I wish I had told you to your face that your passion for Linda and your deep devotion to your family made us fall madly in love with you. I wish I had told you that I loved you for the fact that you were so referenced and so hip and yet would respond sincerely to a shocking tale with the phrase, “My Word!” and mean it without irony. You were a gentleman of another time who we were lucky enough to love in our time. And now that your time with us has ended, I do have regrets. Deep regrets. And Paul I am generally not one for regrets.

But I regret that I didn’t see that you needed to hear it. I wish I had gleaned that you felt less than what you were. We assume when someone is brilliant they know it. Like Picasso. Not boasting of your talent was certainly part of your charm, Paul. But the fact that you did not believe in your brilliance is causing my regret.

In Paul’s memory I am going to start telling people what they are worth. I like to think that I am a compliment-giver to friends and strangers alike. But because of Paul I am going to start saying it out loud or in writing to those I care about and admire.

And, Paul, when I meet you again, I will tell you to your face. That is if I can get it out before you make me pee myself laughing. Dear God, Paul, you are missed. I pray that somewhere, somehow you finally know that.
Skating with Paul (on left, with Colin and Deb, and Luke up front).
Barbara: I didn’t know Paul like you did, Deb. I came to know him when I worked with him over those glorious weeks we spent filming Getting Along Famously so many years ago (if you don’t know the show, it was a brilliant 60s-styled show, conceived, produced, and written by Deb and Colin. They did 60s before Mad Men. It had style, it had grace, it was hilarious; I still can’t believe it didn’t last past the six episodes.).

As I worked with Paul, I bowed in reverence before the genius that was uniquely his. But he was also all those other things that a mensch ought to be: kind, attentive, straight-forward, honest, true. I remember being surprised when it seemed he didn’t know his own talent. It was unimaginable to me that someone with his gift didn’t see it, or feel it like a Superhero power suit. His funeral reflected the incredible legacy he left in the hearts of all who knew him: it was equal parts pain and joy, purging tears and cathartic laughter. 

I echo your wish, Deb. I wish I could have let him know just what a huge impression he made and left. I also like to believe he knows “now”.

I wish I knew him better in life. I wish it hadn’t stopped so short and so suddenly. But these wishes in reality are as delicate and evasive as butterflies: now here, now shining with iridescent beauty, and then gone.

Paul plays on the set of Getting Along Famously.

52 comments:

  1. Gosh After reading this..I wish I knew him! I really do !!! Ive watched this Getting along famously clip so many times for him....!! He truly is amazing... And Deb honey I feel for you....you guys must be so devastated.....
    And so much more devastated as it was so sudden. I just wanna say he is with you all....He'll always be here. Coz Ofcourse he will he loved you all...and trust me honey... everytime any of you remember him and smile or get goosebumps.. its him he is telling you that he is here with you....remembering that exact memory laughing hard and also letting you know he'll always be here for you all. He's in your memories, your laughter and the tears after laughter. Every moment you guys spent with him and every time you'll remember those moments he'll be there with you remembering them. He's in your hearts...! I know I'm being corny, but Ive lost a lotta people and theres one thing Ive learned is they are always here with us when we are happy or sad. Keep him alive in your memories and I'm sure the only reason he would want to see you all cry is because you were laughing really hard!! He's not gone honey....He never left !!
    My heart goes out to you and Colin and Barb and Linda and his family.... Sending you all lots of love xoxo

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    1. Shalaka you just reminded me of a quote that I love- "Those who we love and lose are no longer where they were before, they are wherever we are now" x

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    2. EXACTLY SAMARA...!!! They are always here......we just have to WANT to FEEL THEM! and know it!! xo

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    3. Not corny at all Shalaka. I know he will be with us in our hearts. Thanks for putting it so nicely. Samara that is a stunning quote. I love it. thank you.

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  2. I agree with Shalaka, you will all feel him. Be still, and he will reach you, be aware of little coincidences that remind you of him, I believe his spirit will be around you and he knows the regret you feel. Listen to your inner voice, he will speak to you. He knows you miss him. I love that you are turning your great pain in to something positive......"telling people what they are worth". Such a great thing to do, as people often do the opposite. There is so little to say when the pain of a loss like this is so great, but he is close be to all who loved him.

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    1. I meant to say he is close by to all who loved him....

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    2. Yes...! He is speaking....through impulses, through tears of joy, through love and and everything that makes you remember him...everytime you remember him..he is remembering you.....thats why you FEEEL it !

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    3. This is all true ladies and it is comforting too. I want his family to feel this and I know they will eventually if not in small ways already. I started my project yesterday by writing three dear friends.

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    4. True to your word Deb.......that will mean a great deal to them.....xo

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    5. Awwh that is sucha wonderful gesture Deb. they mustve felt so heart warmed !

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  3. Shalaka and Mary-Jo already said everything that was on my mind.

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    1. Thank you Kasku. If I was responding they would have said it well for me too!

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  4. My dear sister summed this up pretty well (via Facebook)

    "Today, I don't just want to thank all the countless men and women who defend our freedom, but all the people in my life who, for whatever reason, have influenced me one way or another. You didn't have to put up with me, but you did. You didn't have to sacrifice so much, but you did."

    Last night Holly and I stayed up very late talking about...everything. Whatever was on our minds, and our hearts. We're going to make a few changes in our lives that we are very excited about! After reading this, there's a few more I'm going to make too.

    I feel like that sometimes people in our lives are taken for granted, then for whatever reason they disappear from our lives. Whether it be a tragedy, a move, or those once common bonds aren't common anymore. I've had all three happen in my life in which I have lost loved ones. But today, I look at all I have around me (and a pair of yellow eyes staring over my computer...) and all I can do is give the credit where it is due.

    Deb, you've inspired me to be more conscientious of those around me who are still here. I want to tell them how much they mean to me, eventually one by one. Again, so very sorry for your loss. I will be thinking of you and your and his family today

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    1. Kelly beautifully said thank you. We all need to reach out don't we. How nice to tell people they are great!

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  5. Wow...Deb. That was beautiful. Definitely makes me want to reach out to loved ones more. Must share a quote from one of my favorite Harry Potter characters:

    "But know this: the ones that love us never really leave us. And you can always find them in here" (heart)

    Still always praying for you all.

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    1. Thanks Holly. Yes we must reach out mustn't we?

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  6. Deb~ So beautiful…. And it is now Paul’s “gift” to you. I sadly was “gifted” that lesson at a very young age. Loosing my Dad gave me such a fear of NEVER seeing anyone again, I would tell them what I thought, and how I felt, the moment I was feeling” anything! And as you know, I still do this. I used to live in the “Fear” of it… now I value the “gift” of it.

    You may not “think” Paul knew everything you wanted him to know, about how you felt about him, Deb… but I can promise you this much… He knew you LoVed him. Because you are LoVe. Pure, juicy, silly, hilarious, talented, beautiful little Love bug. To know you, is to know this. Paul Knew you LoVed him…. without words. And he knew the “talent” he worked with, so he humbly knew his worth. You can trust in that. ((((HuGssss))))))

    LoVe to both of you girls. Our deepest sympathy.
    xoxoxo Sean'a

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    1. Yes Seana I know that you suffered that pain and I pray that his youngest daughter is going to be able to remember all the beautiful details that are Paul. Thanks for the Gift lesson. Love you. xo

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    2. Deb - I think any memory or thought of Paul is honoring and showing your love for him. And I'm sure you showed how you felt for him in ways beyond words. I don't know how old the girls are but as you know I was 8 mos pregnant and my daughter was three when their daddy died. Most heartbreaking moment was when she woke up crying at about age six because she said she couldn't remember his voice. After that I asked anyone who had video, pictures or any memories of Sam to please share them. They will always feel the loss and as long as the ones around them keep sharing the Paul they knew he will remain a part of their lives. There are days that will be worse then others and they will need extra support. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and any milestones in their lives. Each of my kids miss their dad in different ways but I am always in tune to when they need to talk about him. I hope it's useful advice. Still thinking of you and offering my support

      XOXO

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    3. Mary it is wonderful advise and much appreciated. It kills me to think of you and your daughter going through that. Life can be so horribly sad. But you have clearly made every effort to move forward and to keep Sam's memory alive. Thanks you for this. I know the girls will be so grateful for their Dad on film in years to come. xo

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  7. Priceless to have him on film.
    Getting Along Famously was F'n Fabulous.

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  8. He was so wonderful on that, thanks Kate!

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  9. When someone I care about loses someone dear to them, as you and Colin have, I offer my respect by remembering someone who I was close to who had passed. I remember my godparents, Auntie Barbara and Uncle Mel, who have been gone.. WOW. Since March, 2005 and November, 2008, respectively. I honor them by respecting the faith that Auntie Barb strongly believed, and that her faith made her who she was, and, indubitably, now is, with God in Heaven. It brings me peace that I know she is truly at peace.

    I'd like to ask you, Deb, Barb, and also Colin: Do you all know you are also brilliant? Or do you say, "No, I'm not, not after watching so and so. THAT'S who is really brilliant."? Paul may have thought this same way. However, I believe strongly that he knew you love him. We may not recognize our own talents, but we do know when someone loves us. when we BELIEVE someone loves us.

    I hope that is Paul's peace.

    I hope that is your peace.

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  10. Dawn that was both beautiful and comforting. Thank you very much!

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  11. Thanks for the post, you two-

    Can I share with you an experience at the memorial? At the reception after the service, I was pleased to see a former student of mine who is having a successful acting career. She said she liked to think that Paul was hovering in the rafters, finally hearing how much he was admired and loved. She said, like you Deb, that her takeaway was to tell people who have mentored or inspired her what they mean to her. She then proceeded to thank me for nurturing and encouraging her, as her first improv teacher. Now that's a gal who knows how to put her words into action! I am now doubly inspired to do the same to those important people in my past.

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    1. Moira that is so lovely. I myself sat down last night and started writing letters of admiration and did three last night and sent them. I think we should all have our funerals years before we die. Even though we can't maybe this is the next best thing-telling people that they are valued. So glad you had that encounter Moira. Sandy and I were just saying yesterday how wonderful it was to see you. xoxoxo

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  12. Deb , though I agree with you about Paul not believing in his own self worth (For years I tried to convince him about the admiration and respect others felt for him) , I have to disagree with you about you not telling him .I think that both you and Colin made it quite clear , your admiration for him .The fact that whenever you worked with him , you were either peeing your panties or else wrecking the take because of the laughter pouring out of you , sent a very clear message to Paul . And you also verbally told him so , I being a witness to it on many occasions . And when Colin was asked to do that fundraiser , back when he was riding high on the 'Whose Line Is It?' fame , he had the choice of any number of top improvisers around , he chose only one person to do two hours straight of high energy improvising , and that one person was Paul . That is very high praise indeed . Your actions spoke volumes and I know he appreciated it . But I do understand where you are coming from and it's too bad that Paul didn't have a clue . Or rather he had a clue but chose not to believe it . We all wish we could have said more . But I want you to know that you two were very good to him . He has told me .

    Take care .

    Nice post , by the way .

    Cliff Saunders .

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    1. Cliff your post means more than you can know. It is a point of view we had not considered but one that we are happy to entertain. If I could reconcile myself to the fact that he knew how we all felt, it would be a tiny bit easier. Thanks for this Cliff. We know how hard this weekend was for you in every single way not the least of which was your booked gigs which of course Paul would be thrilled for you for. And there is the void right there.The huge void. He should be here, getting over this hump, having his second third forth and fifth chapter of success. I am so sorry we missed you at Sandy and Greg's. We still have lots to share in person. xo

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    2. Yes we do .We'll talk sometime soon I hope .

      Cliff.

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  13. Detachable PrincessMay 28, 2012 at 5:36 PM

    Deb, that was beautiful. May we all have a friend like you who can articulate so beautifully what they love in a person.

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    1. May we all have friends who feel these things for us and show them. xo

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  14. Deb a glowing tribute to a beloved friend.

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  15. Reading this made me feel like I was sitting right next to you both as you explained Paul to us. I know am a little late getting here today, I participated in 2 Memorial Day parades with the fire company I belong to, but none the less I can't tear myself away from this post. I must have read it 4 times now. Each time I notice something new about Paul it seems.
    Deb I understand the regret feelings. My grandmother lived right next door my whole life and I think I took that for granted. I have always felt regret for not saying 'I Love You' more to her despite seeing her so regularly. I don't remember telling her I loved her. She died in 2005. I can tell you that the regret will always be there but it gets lighter every day. I would say now that I am just carring around a balloon on a string in terms of the regret. It takes time but soon you will focus in on the happy and memorable times more so than the things you never got to do.
    Healing does not mean you will ever forget Paul or what he meant to you and your families, it just means remembering the happy times and being thankful for those memories.
    When we set off fireworks tonight I will send one sky high for Paul. <3
    I send hugs.

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    1. Kelly, this killed me with kindness.

      "Healing does not mean you will ever forget Paul or what he meant to you and your families, it just means remembering the happy times and being thankful for those memories.
      When we set off fireworks tonight I will send one sky high for Paul."
      I
      Thanks you kellyxo

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  16. Such a sweet tribute. Is it possible that Paul did have an idea of his worth given who he worked alongside? And given the love of his family and all of you? All my best wishes to you and everyone else Paul's death has affected.

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  17. I do believe that he knows all of this now. Really, I do. He knows now how loved and admired he is. My heart breaks for you all. Sudden loss is difficult, to say the least. Love to you, Deb and Barbara, and to Colin and Paul's family and friends, and all those that are feeling this loss so closely. You all are in my thoughts, heart, and prayers.

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    1. Steph those are kind and thoughtful words. I hope he does. I pray he does.

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  18. Wow, all these comments have really blown me away. You are all such amazing, insightful people! Thank you for sharing these thoughts and your own memories. I am touched beyond words by the YOU of you all.

    I actually want to echo Cliff's sentiments (a few comments up) by saying that it is hard to imagine that Deb and Colin would not have communicated their love and admiration for this spectacular talent. I have been witness to their displays of grace countless times. They are so kind and enthusiastic and supportive that they probably hardly register when their loving and admiring words pour out. Cliff, I think your point is very well taken!

    I also love this self-promise today that so many of us have signed on for: a determined commitment to express our appreciation for those around us whenever we can. It bears repeating again and again! xo to all

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  19. Barb I am glad you mentioned this. I have, quite touchingly so, been a grateful recipient of some kind words my way today in the way of testimonial. I knew I was going to do it but it was also lovely to get it in return. The only thing I would hope is that we keep it going. Really keep it going. Tell that person you like their mind, their heart, their talent, their shoes, that you love them and why!

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  20. I'm sure he knows now, and he will be proud and happy that you think so much about him.

    And you're right...it's so important to tell people you love, and what talent they have...sometimes they don't know it.

    *big huuuugs*
    Love you.

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  21. Oh, Deb. My condolences on the passing of your friend. He touched many lives. That much is clear. And this is a reminder that things happen quickly so take every chance to say and do good.

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  22. Truer than true Lisa. Thanks.

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  23. I stumbled on your blog from Twitter and I am happy I did - what a moving tribute to Paul.
    I was lucky enough to have him as a teacher and it is obvious he had an impact on everyone that he came into contact with. I feel so grateful to have known him.
    Beautiful and very accurate tributes.

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    1. We're happy you found us too, Heidi! And I can't tell you how much I've been thinking of all the students Paul touched. Thank you for sharing this here xo

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  24. THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR WONDERFUL THOUGHTS. HE ALWAYS SPOKE SO FONDLY OF YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. IT WAS COMFORTING ON SAT. TO SEE HOW MANY PEOPLE LOVED AND RESPECTED MY PRECIOUS BROTHER. MIMI

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