I’ve been thinking a lot about the death of Heath Ledger.

I’m really very surprised that it has bothered me as bad as it has.  It has bothered me as bad as the death of Princess Diana so many years ago.

Any of you who have come here on a regular basis know that I have made a lot of posts about Britney Spears and other poster children for bad behavior.  Were I to open a newspaper or a news web site and read screaming headlines that announced “Britney Spears Collapses, Dead at 26” I wouldn’t be surprised, nor would I feel badly.  She has, after all, shown time and again that she’s irresponsible, self-serving, reckless and unwilling to take ownership of any consequences of her actions — and it appears that she doesn’t care who she takes down with her, even if it’s her kids.

Anna Nicole Smith’s death was tragic.  Sure she was in the limelight here and there and, while people had their opinions on her morals, I still felt sad for the life she lived, and that life she would never get a chance to live.

Princess Diana was just finding her own life when it was tragically cut short.  She did good things for people throughout the world and, while I don’t think that the “canonization” of her following her death was warranted, I still believe she was a truly decent human being.

By all accounts, Heath Ledger relished his new role as father to “Matilda Rose,” and could be seen walking her in her stroller.  Even Michelle Williams talked fondly of how involved Heath was in Matilda’s day-to-day care, cooking for her, dressing her, etc.

My life right now is, I wouldn’t say reduced to food, but my duties in life are that I wake up, cook breakfast, clean the dishes, prepare lunch, clean those dishes, go to the market, get fresh produce, cook dinner, clean those dishes and then sleep if I can. And I love it. I actually adore it.

People in New York talk about him as any one of us would talk about a neighbor down the street that we like.  He spent time with children, sometimes just chatting with them.  By all accounts, he gave an awful lot of himself to others, effortlessly.

Actors and actresses are not who they play — that is, they are often vastly different from the characters they play in movies or television series.  Heath Ledger had become a small-ish gay icon due to the role he played in Brokeback Mountain

But more than that, at least for me, was that Heath Ledger *did* that important work — Brokeback Mountain.  And he didn’t just *do* it, he *became* it and he *defined* it for the whole world.

I think most of the emotions or love within Ennis is purely potential. It’s within him and he never really expresses. That’s the tragedy of this story and that’s the tragedy of each one of those love affairs. I think the only time you get to see this potential or slither of how he could express is when he’s with his children; because his children are the one area where he feels safe and allowed to love the way he naturally feels he can love them. With his wife, his love is slightly manufactured. It’s more traditional and it’s him conforming, but it’s not true love. His love for Jack is true in a passionate love, but he hates the way he loves and it’s forbidden. Essentially, he’s like a homophobic male in love with another man. He’s very fixed in his ways and he’s left lingering in between the role.

The scene where Jack and Ennis meet again, for the first time since that first summer on Brokeback Mountain was powerful and I think that Heath Ledger brought a believability and realistic portrayal of the passion of unrequited yet forbidden love. He made you feel like a voyeur watching his relationship with Jack Twist. Jake Gyllenhaal brought wonderful things to the table in this movie, but it was Heath who made it what it became, at least to me.

I feel like Heath Ledger did something for me — for the entire GLBTQ community. 

With honesty and sensitivity, he made that movie about more than just “gay cowboys.”  He made it about love, about the struggle to find love for someone else as well as love for oneself.  He made it about what so many in the gay/lesbian community live — self-loathing, fear, internalized homophobia, shame, regret for a life not lived.

Perhaps the story touched me deeper than others because I came out so late in life myself and I felt such a kinship with “Ennis.”  But it was Heath, not Ennis, that did that — that showed the world just how people “live” with the inner struggles of having to come to terms with who they are.

Heath Ledger will be missed.  But I’ll always remember what he did for us — for our community.