How Spider-Man: No Way Home Magnified My Grief (A “Dear Danny” Letter)

Dear Danny,

Saturday, after work, Chris and I went to see Spider-Man: No Way Home (he had already seen it but I hadn’t. How I avoided spoilers for so long will remain a mystery!). I was not prepared for Marvel’s latest cinematic heartbreak.

There were only about 15 people in the theatre with us and we sat all the way at the top (which I had never done before; it was kinda cool) so I saw everything on the screen with a clear, undiminished view. A small part of me regrets going to see the movie because of the emotional turmoil I feel currently but you’ll understand why momentarily.

During the movie, Aunt May dies (because duh, it’s Spider-Man); Green Goblin kills her with one of his infamous green bombs. Watching Tom Holland’s Spider-Man go through panic, shock, desperation, and the beginning of grief in May’s last moments (a 2-4 minute time span as far as this part of the scene is concerned) hit me harder than Uncle Ben’s death. A few tears were shed, I admit. As I watched Spider-Man emote over his beloved guardian, I couldn’t help but think of you, Danny. You in your final moments, as your body was slowly—or quickly depending on your method of death—shutting down and becoming cold… I wonder if you thought of your loved ones? What went through your parents’ minds when they finally found you? Like Aunt May, did you die with your eyes open, too? (I will never forgive Marvel for that! That shot just…made it so much worse! So heart-wrenchingly worse!)

Andrew Garfield was recently on the Steven Colbert show talking about his role as Jonathan Larson and how he used the role as an avenue for grieving his late mother. I had watched the clip before seeing Spider-Man but rewatching it after the movie? It puts things into a new perspective. Of grief and the tears that follow, Garfield says this: “it’s….all the unexpressed love. The grief—that will remain with us until we pass—because we didn’t…we never get enough time with each other. I hope this grief stays with me because it’s all the unexpressed love I didn’t get to tell her.”

Danny, your family and friends, and everyone who loved and cared for you, both out loud and in secret, will grieve you for the rest of our lives. Unlike Spider-Man, who could only grieve—initially—for a short time because the police had surrounded the building and were waiting for him outside (like Divergent’s Tris grieving her mother’s death, kneeling in the alleyway of a war-torn street, begging for her mom to wake up, screaming for her shooters to “Stop! Stop!” for two seconds to let her be a daughter grieving her mother.) But of course, those things always happen to the heroes; they never get a break—they have a job to do after all.

Writing all this out to you feels sobering. Maybe I’ll give Marvel another chance—maybe. I miss you. It hurts thinking of all the conversations and laughter we will never share but I feel peaceful too like you’re watching me over my shoulder as I sit this at a way-too-early-in-morning timeframe (it’s not even 6 a.m. yet). 🙂

Until next time.

P.S. I’m not calling you “Malcolm” anymore because that’s not the name I know you by; though that is your birth name, that’s also the name you chose you to die under and I refuse to use your death name.

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