On March 13 of this year, the DC storytelling community lost one of its most beloved storytellers. Since then I’ve been struggling to make sense of why Kevin Boggs’s death was so devastating and so unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. Like so many others who knew Kevin, I joined a Facebook group set up to support him and his family, and then watched as hundreds and hundreds of people (myself included) posted messages of love and gratitude. To me and to so many other storytellers in DC, Kevin was a goddamn celebrity.
Maybe “celebrity” is the wrong word. It seems trivial. We lost a storytelling superstar and an inspiration. He made it seem easy, effortless and also magical. And he made us feel like we knew him, really knew him.
There seemed to be a running joke about his diva-ness. I don’t know how much of that was real and how much was put on for everyone’s amusement. But for all of that diva-tude — real or pretend — he was actually so endlessly giving. How else do you explain an outpouring of love and gratitude like that from almost a thousand people?
We all seem to have a Kevin Boggs story to share — a time when he so generously gave us exactly what we needed in the moment to persist. For me, it was the time he told me he got my sense of humor and he wanted to work with me. Since I’m terrible with compliments, I think I probably said something awkward and silly in response. But now I realize he said exactly what I needed to hear. How did he know how to do that?
I don’t know what it is about this loss that has been so different for me. I don’t know if it was this shared group experience that happened through Facebook or the fact that I’m old enough now to have a little more acceptance around death. There’s this very human inclination to want to pour over the details of a sudden and unexpected loss, as if in those details there will be some key to avoiding the unavoidable. I hate that inclination. It’s so futile.
I am more interested in how Kevin lived because what a spectacular fucking life it was. I don’t believe in God. Spirituality and the concept of magic don’t really resonate with me. But the fact that someone can live fifty years on this planet and inspire so many damn people strikes me as the very essence of magic. I know some agnostic-leaning people choose to define God as those transcendent things that connect us — art, music, nature. Kevin was one of those transcendent things that connects us — particularly the community of storytellers, even more so that community which makes the organization almost formerly known as SpeakeasyDC exactly what it is today.
While sitting around thinking about how Kevin was kind of a celebrity, I read a beautiful tribute to him which begins by stating Kevin wasn’t famous. And it’s true — Kevin didn’t have a national reputation and he earned his living as a waiter. But he had the magic. He was the fucking magic. And that made his death one of the most heartbreaking and yet beautiful things I’ve ever experienced.