The world is still reeling over the loss of Chadwick Boseman; not only mourning the loss of such a bright young talent, but also dealing with the shock that he had been battling cancer secretly during some of the most prolific years of his career.
There has been some speculation about why the Black Panther star kept his diagnosis under wraps, even from collaborators like directors Ryan Coogler and Spike Lee. Very few people were aware of Boseman’s private pain, but now some of his inner circle have shed light on his decision to keep his cancer under wraps.
The actor’s longtime agent Michael Greene told The Hollywood Reporter that the choice was based in part on values instilled by his mother, Carolyn Boseman. He shared:
“ always taught him not to have people fuss over him. He also felt in this business that people trip out about things, and he was a very, very private person.”
He didn’t want people to fuss over him. Can you imagine being so stoic in the face of so much pain?
Howard University president Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick confirmed this in his own story about the 43-year-old’s health: when Frederick asked about his weight loss during a visit last year, Boseman deflected with an explanation of healthy eating and exercise. Reflecting on the Wakandan superhero’s memorable Howard commencement speech, Frederick called Boseman’s decision to keep his struggle private “courageous.” He said:
“To share that fight and that journey would have left us sympathizing with him. The fact that he resisted that urge and instead focused on humility and his own struggles so that the students could relate to that. It says so much more about him. I reflect on that time now and, again, it shows his grace — not just his humility but his grace. We think of it as shyness or weakness, but it’s strength, because he was so confident in who he was.”
Frederick praised Chadwick’s silent strength, saying:
“One of his greatest attributes was never burdening anyone else but being there to shoulder everyone else’s burdens.”
Close friends also marveled at Boseman’s ability to work through the struggle: Green recalled that “he was really in hard-core pain” on the set of the upcoming Netflix adaptation of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Trainer and pal Addison Henderson recounted his “brother” showing up to the set of his own directorial debut despite being worn out from a grueling film schedule and ongoing health crisis. He said Boseman reminded him of Henderson’s father, who beat cancer four times. He explained:
“I used to tell Chad, ‘Man, you remind me of my dad. You guys are fighters, and you never stop moving forward.’ For us, it was just like, ‘Let’s keep going, let’s keep doing what you want to do, let’s keep training.’”
Of Chadwick’s life and legacy, Frederick had this to say:
“I am overjoyed, not that I got to know him but that he lived and in doing so, he taught us how to live fully and how to embrace life through all its opportunities, flaws and weaknesses. I don’t think he hid from any of those things. He wore them gracefully. His ability to set that example is so touching and that, to me, is what is resonating now. He lived fully. His time wasn’t short. He maximized what he had.”
What a beautiful remembrance of such an impactful person — and another reminder to make the most of the time we’re given. We continue to keep Chadwick and his loved ones in our thoughts.
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