Dear Kate McKinnon

Dear Kate,

I could talk about your greatest hits for hours. Jillian Holtzmann and Hillary Clinton and so many sketches on SNL—it doesn’t matter if it’s Ms. Rafferty’s raconteuring or RBG’s outrageous dancing; they’ve all made me laugh, sometimes so much that I cried. But none of them affected me as deeply or profoundly as last night’s cover of “Hallelujah.”

I must admit, I was nervous about the cold open. I didn’t want to see Trump’s face—or rather, Baldwin’s face—but I didn’t want to see Clinton’s concession speech, either. After several sleepless nights, lots of cursing, and many tears, my heart felt too fragile for comedy. I almost didn’t watch. But something (obsession, determination, faith that a show like this is adept at reading the nation) made me turn on the TV.

It’s hard to explain what happened when the cameras started rolling. In fact, I’m not sure I formed any thoughts other than “Kate” and “Clinton” and “oh god, Leonard Cohen” before I started crying. But now that I’ve had time to process it, I hope I can explain.

My favorite line of Shakespeare is exactly three words long. In Macbeth, after Macduff learns that assassins killed his family, he doubles over, unable to speak for the fierce grip of his grief. His friend Malcolm (the murdered king’s son, also intimate with loss), moves to comfort him, but instead of choosing physical touch or immediately swearing revenge, he simply says, “Give sorrow words.” Give sorrow words, for “the grief that does not speak / whispers the o’erfraught heart and bids it break.”

Kate—last night, you gave sorrow words.

For the past six months, comedy has played an important role in my life. (To be completely honest, it kept me from killing myself two long dark weeks in October, so believe me when I say that I know the power of a smile.) But sometimes even laughter can’t heal a broken heart. Sometimes the only medicine is the raw, unflinching expression of grief.

I’m glad that you and Lorne and everyone at SNL realized that. I’m glad that you chose to pay tribute to a beloved artist while mourning the misstep of a nation. I’m glad that you reminded me that this isn’t cause to give up but rather incentive to move on. My heart has felt so frail and fragile these past three days, but watching you sing on live television with barely held-back tears reminded me that emotion isn’t weakness. It’s strength.

So thank you, Kate. Once again, you’ve given me the strength to survive today, the courage to keep on keeping on.

Love,

Shelby

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