It is 9:30am on a Saturday, and my nose is running because I have been crying a little. You of course won’t read this until Monday, but I’m writing now because the thoughts are raw and fresh, and I need to put them down on paper.
This morning I woke up and went on Facebook, as I do, and the first post I saw was my friend Tilke’s headshot. What surprised me, was that it was on another friend’s page, not her own. At first, I thought it must be a promotional for their new movie, but closer inspection proved me wrong-Tilke had passed away, and the photo was a memorial to her.
Down the Facebook rabbit hole I went, in search of any information and hoping this wasn’t true, although this mutual friend would not have been wrong…and he wasn’t. She was gone.
One night, many years ago, we were standing in front of a bar in the February cold smoking cigarettes and practicing Russian accents. We had just done a show, Cowboy Mouth, and she was the female lead. It was the first time we worked together, and I saw immense talent in her. Really, if you asked me who in the Buffalo theater scene could have ridden the rocket all the way to Hollywood, I would have told you that person was Tilke Hill. Anyway, she said something to me about how I wasn’t pursuing my other interests at the time, which was true. She saw no reason why I was still stage managing without also directing, acting, writing, etc. She had great plans for us to do a show together, where we would act and direct ourselves-we picked The Kathy and Mo Show. This didn’t work out, because…well you know when a person is in a toxic relationship, and they’ve got a friend who calls it out? Tilke called it out to me. The company we planned to perform with was a problem, and she saw it before I did.
And, as the true friend, when I left that toxic situation, she was there to help pick me up, by asking me to do props and help her direct some scenes in a show at a different theater. It is the last show I worked on, and to this day I don’t fully understand what it was about, but I do know that it showed me I didn’t need to be tethered to something that was holding me back.
I don’t know that I would have had these realizations without Tilke.
Now, I left the theater world, and when I did, I lost some friends. It’s no one’s fault, just that life pulls you apart. However, there are certainly people from the theater community that hold very special places in my heart, and Tilke was one of them. These are people you always kind of hope you will work with again someday, and that’s how I felt about her. I always thought, maybe someday, we can throw together Kathy and Mo and achieve a dream.
But then, life…and death. The sudden sucker punch that takes someone out of existence and leaves you feeling hollow and sad. Sometimes in life, people come into your world for a brief moment and set it on fire, and when you sift through the ashes, you can find the real treasure. Tilke was that sort of person. What I would not give to be standing outside a bar in the cold, having one last cigarette, and practicing our Russian accents.
Rest in peace, my friend.