I love Harry Potter. Have ever since I was kid.
I went to the midnight book releases. Stayed up way to late and binge read until the wee hours of the morning.
Went to the midnight premiere of all the movies.
Went to Harry Potter World in the summer of 2011 and even got to go into the park for free after the midnight premiere of the Deathly Hallows Part 2. It was epic.
I have a wand in my office. Took the Pottermore quiz at least 7 different times. Griffiddnor duh.
So you get the picture. I am a full on Harry Potter nerd.
There are so many lessons Harry Potter teaches us but I think one of the most important lessons centers around grief and family.
The very first book starts off with the death of Harry’s parents. Like hello. Really just punch us in the gut JK Rowling.
But that is what makes Harry Potter so great, death in a sense, is woven through the pages and into the halls of Hogwarts.
Death in the books are presented as nothing less than something poetically and authentically true.
I am currently rereading the books as I do every summer. And each time I read them its through new eyes and experiences as I did when I was a kid.
There are a million different things I could write about Harry Potter and Death but here are just a few of my favorite moments.
Warning- Major spoilers ahead.
The Mirror of Erised
The Mirror of Erised shows up in the first book. The mirror has the ability to show the person their deepest desire, and for Harry, he sees himself with the parents he never got to know. Harry spends a lot of time starring the mirror, longing to be with his parents. Soon Dumbledore appears and tells Harry “it does not dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”
I do not want to speak for everyone who has lost someone but I bet a large number of us would also want to see our loved ones in that mirror and would also just sit in a dusty classroom and stare for hours. One of the hardest lessons to learn after a death is learning to live again.
Harry’s First Christmas at Hogwarts
Harry didn’t have a happy childhood with the Dursleys and going to Hogwarts was his escape so why would he want to go back to the Dursleys for Christmas. With death, almost every seemingly happy occasion and event is just overshadowed with the overwhelming fact that your loved one wont have a seat at the table. Harry did not have a happy home to return to and didn’t have parents.
Working on a college campus I think about the students who don’t have a happy home to spend Christmas with, or who do not have a parent to sign their Hogsmeade permission slip. Who are we leaving behind?
In the 5th book Mr. Weasley is attacked and its pretty touch and go for awhile. No one knows anything or if we will survive or what even happened. He ends up surviving (though years after the 5th book was published, JK Rowling did say that in another draft Mr Weasley was meant to die).
When a loved one is sick, you have more questions than there will ever be answers. You feel so helpless and it puts you into such a vulnerable place knowing you cant do anything to make someone better, all you can do is just be there.
Even after all these years, this death hurts. Sirius was a connection to Harry’s parents, a piece of history he never got to experience. But Sirius was also Harrys future, a future that didn’t involve the Dursleys, a chance to be apart of a real family.
You can dream and imagine a life with your loved ones, but sometimes life has different plans. Even if Sirius had lived, Harry would still of have to return to Privet Drive, so in a sense, everything really does happen for a reason.
The Resurrection Stone
Out of all the scenes in all seven books, the moment where Harry is in the Forbidden Forest in the last book is my all time favorite. Harry has to accept his own death in order to live. He doesn’t run or hide, he embraces death like an old friend. By accepting his fate, he is greeted by his parents, Sirius, and Lupin. Harry asks “you’ll stay with me?” and his dad responds “until the end.” The ones we lose in life never really go away, they stay with us. Thinking about and accepting death grants us all clarity.
I have been thinking a lot lately about family and about how my family looks different than most. I no longer have parents. Just a parent. Singular. One. The idea of family has changed so much over the past 20 years and it looks different. Harry taught us that family is not always about blood but more about friends you love who turn into family and this idea of a chosen family.
I then think back to my work on a college campus and right now across the nation, its orientation season. So much of the messaging from universities and parents is still centered around the two parent household. If Hogwarts had orientation, who would be showing up for Harry?
Harry is literally the boy who lived.
Despite spells, and bad guys, and dragons, and death, Harry still lived.
So thank you boy who lived for inspiring a generation