In honesty, it’s not something I thought about much, and I cared about it even less. All I really knew was the sting and emptiness of loss. And the memories of illness and pain that overshadowed all the earlier, happier memories of my brother.
It was not the first time I had mourned, but I now know that mourning is its own planet. Each time you are dragged into its gravitational force is a first time. And each time you mourn, the experience is different; though some things remain constant – the sleeplessness, the obliviousness to the world around you, the pull ever downward of grief and despair.
But eventually, and for me that eventually took years, I peeked my head back into the world and noticed something.
Howard had a legacy. Howard was not going to be forgotten. I thought his work would live on for a generation or so and that was good. I also thought that his name would not. That’s why we started this website in the first place, because I thought Howard’s name would be forgotten without it. But I could see that a generation or so would appreciate the work he did.
The first time it really occurred to me that Howard’s legacy might last beyond that one generation was about eight years after he died. I was at a business conference in Orlando and, since I was there, I went to Disney World. And the first song I heard was “Be Our Guest.” And when I looked around I saw little girls wearing mermaid fins and yellow ball gowns. And I honestly, maybe ridiculously, was surprised.
Howard died on March 14, 1991. Six months after he died, Disney had a public screening of a rough cut of their new animated film, Beauty and the Beast. Billed as a “Work in Progress” It was screened at Lincoln Center as part of the New York Film Festival and received a standing ovation. It was the first time I saw that the animated film itself was dedicated:
To our friend Howard. Who gave a Mermaid her voice and a Beast his soul. We will be forever grateful
Last night, twenty-six years later and one day before the anniversary of Howard’s death, we were again at Lincoln Center. And again, we were seeing Beauty and the Beast. Yes, this time there were live actors on the screen but everything was ever as before and too, ever a surprise. Beauty is ready for the next generation – and for generations to come.
That is, indeed, a legacy.