This is a very personal story I wrote the day after it was announced that Supernatural will end next year.
At least, I thought it was personal. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s not just my story. It’s a story for all of us in the #SPNFamily. I believe it’s how so many of us feel about the impending loss of our show. But we’re not alone in the way we feel, are we? We have each other. No matter what, at the end of it all, we’ll still have each other.
This is a story about love and loss, it’s true. Ultimately, though, it’s really a story about so much more: Hope, strength, dreams, and imagination. After all, as a certain angel might say: Imagination is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Boundless in its scope, and limitless in its possibilities.
From my heart to yours,
Learning to Let Go
I’m not ready to let go.
As the TV show that changed my world begins its final season this October, I’ll be watching avidly, hanging on every word my favourite characters speak, as always. But this time will feel different, because I know it’ll be the last time.
I’m not ready to let go…. but I’ll have to.
I watched a video of three men making the announcement we’ve all been dreading, and as I looked closely at their tearful eyes through my own, I realized something I’d actually known for a long time: Jensen, Jared and Misha are the real deal – human beings with emotions that need to be expressed. The making of that video and the events that led up to it were clearly very difficult for them, but they did it anyway. Because we matter to them. Because we are, well, family.
Didn’t Bobby Singer once say something about that? How your family aren’t supposed to make you happy, they’re supposed to make you miserable? Good old Bobby. He could always be counted on when a wake-up call was needed. I imagine myself having a conversation with him, telling him that I’m not ready to let go. I’m pretty sure we all know how that little talk would work out for me. “Suck it up, Buttercup,” and “Boo-hoo, isn’t that just too bad?” are the first two kinds of things that he would probably come out with. Then, as I tried one more time to make my appeal, repeating, “I’m not ready to let go, Bobby,” he would look at me sternly, but with love in his eyes, and say, “You have to.”
Fine. Whatever. I’d known Bobby was going to say that. But I’m still not able to let go. I’m not willing to let go.
“A-ha!” Rowena would say. Wait, what? Where had SHE come from?
Wherever that had been, she was here now, pointing her finger at me. “I knew it!” she would say to me. “It’s not that you’re not ABLE to let go, it’s that you’re not WILLING to let go. There’s a big difference.”
I’d look at her with a baleful expression. “So what if there is?” I would say defiantly.
“Don’t you see?” she would say, almost pleadingly. “I wasn’t willing to let my son go. I tried everything I could to bring him back, but nothing I did made any difference. Fergus – Crowley – is gone. I’m not willing to let go, but I’m able. I’m able to let my son go, because endings are a part of life.”
Rowena faded away then, leaving me to stare at the spot where she’d been standing. Well, that was if she’d even been there in the first place. Great. Now not only was I heartbroken, but apparently, I was delusional, too. Seeing people who weren’t real. Hearing their voices.
Then, since there was nobody else there, I began to argue with myself. Of course these people are real, the calm and reasonable Me said. You’ve spent nearly fifteen years with them. Laughing, crying, loving, dying. The Family Business. Of course they’re real. They’re real to You. They’re up here – a gesture towards my head – and in here – my chest, where my heart is.
OK, this was getting ridiculous. I had cried so many tears by now that I was wishing I had stock in a tissue factory. Maybe it was time for an intellectual approach.
“Sam, what do you think?” I asked him. “Does it make any sense for me to feel this way?”
Suddenly, I was standing in the bunker, and Sam was smiling up at me from his seat at the table. He had his laptop open in front of him. Researching a case, probably.
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” Sam said, quite logically. “You feel how you feel.”
“Wow. Is that the best you can do?” I retorted. This process had begun in the hypothetical, but being here in the bunker was making it all too real to me, now. “If this hunting thing doesn’t work out for you, you could have a real future writing greeting cards, or motivational posters, maybe. ‘You feel how you feel’. That’s deep.”
Sam half-shrugged. “But it’s true though, isn’t it? You DO feel how you feel. You want to know what I think? I’ll tell you, then: You’re going through the stages of grief.”
I shook my head. “No, I’m not. That’s ridiculous.”
Sam grinned. “Denial. I rest my case.”
I was startled. Sure, what he was saying made a certain amount of sense, but…. Rowena had alluded to the same thing, when she had talked about losing Crowley. But that wasn’t the same thing, not at all. This was just a TV show.
“A TV show that changed your entire world, and the way you look at it,” Sam pointed out. Had I spoken aloud? “A TV show that inspired you to put pen to paper and write stories, for the first time in decades. A TV show that encouraged you to reach out and make friends, all over the world. A TV show that prompted you to send a message to a website, asking them to take a chance on an unknown, middle-aged, aspiring writer? That doesn’t sound like ‘just a TV show’ to me. That sounds like the best thing that’s ever happened to you.”
“Yeah, but it’s ending,” I pleaded with Sam.
“Is it?” he said, somewhat nonsensically.
“Uhhh…. yeah,” I said, raising my eyebrows to him. “That’s what we were just talking about.”
“Why don’t you go and talk to Dean?” Sam suggested. “He’s in the kitchen, making a sandwich.”
Of course. Of course he was. That was Dean. He was always drinking beer, or stuffing his face. Well, when he wasn’t killing monsters, driving his Baby, and listening to classic rock, that was.
“Hey,” Dean said as I entered the kitchen. He gestured with his beer bottle. “Want a sandwich?” He took a wolfish bite out of his own sandwich. Mysteriously enough, the sandwich looked even bigger after he’d done that. Hmm.
“No, thanks,” I replied, going along with the surrealism of the whole situation. None of the characters I’d talked to seemed the least bit surprised to see me. They were behaving as if we already knew each other. As if I’d been here the whole time.
Suddenly, I felt angry. “How can you eat at a time like this?” I asked Dean. “I feel sick to my stomach. I’m in so much pain right now, it feels like I’ll never be able to eat again.”
Dean took another giant bite, looking calmly at me. “How can I eat?” he said, around a mouthful of sandwich. Then, in a delightful and unexpected French Mistake-like moment, he said, “How many seasons have you been watching, anyway?”
He’d surprised the laugh out of me. That was Dean Winchester, all right. One minute, he’d have you reduced to a puddle of tears when he was describing how horrible his time in Hell had been, and the next minute….
“You have some mustard on your face,” I told him, gesturing to my own face to show him where. “Actually, you have mustard all over your face.”
He grabbed a napkin and swiped at his face with it, and I laughed again when he missed the stain completely. Then Dean put the sandwich down and looked me straight in the eyes.
“Look, I get it,” he said gruffly. “It’s hard, losing the people you love. Losing family. Nobody knows more about that than I do. But those guys have families of their own. We can’t ask any more from them. They’ve given us everything they had, and then some.” Then his expression brightened. “But, we’re not going anywhere. Me and Sammy and Cas, we’ll always be here.”
Cas. No. Nope. Uh-uh. He was the one I couldn’t let go of the most. Our quirky warrior angel. Castiel hadn’t just gripped Dean tight when he’d raised his best friend from Perdition; he’d touched all of us at that moment, too.
“He‘s outside, waiting for you,” Dean told me.
I shook my head. It was a good thing that Cas was an eternal being, then, because as far as I was concerned, he could wait out there forever. There was no way I was going. If I went out there to talk to him now, that would be like admitting that it was all over. That there would be a week, in a very short time from now, without Supernatural. Nope. That wasn’t going to –
“Hello,” Cas said in his gravelly voice.
I was standing outside on the lawn beside him, looking around. Was this what the bunker’s back yard looked like? It was beautiful. Lush grass, pretty flowers…. it kind of looked like the Garden in Heaven, from the show.
“Imagination is a wonderful thing, isn‘t it?” Cas said to me. “Boundless in its scope, and limitless in its possibilities.”
I wasn’t in the mood for philosophy, right now. “Can’t you do anything about this?“ I asked him pleadingly. “How about if you send us all back to the past? You used to do stuff like that all the time. You sent Sam and Dean back to the Old West, and back to before they were born.”
Cas was squinting up into the sun, watching a butterfly. “I used to do a lot of things,” he remarked calmly. “But I won’t be doing them any more. That butterfly used to be a caterpillar. Wouldn’t you rather see him soar, like he’s doing now?” He looked at me. “I know it doesn’t feel that way now, but you’ll see. It’s only through change that we grow. I know you love them all. So do we. That’s why we have to let them soar.” He looked at the butterfly again. It lingered around the flowerbed for a moment, and then it was gone.
I burst into tears, and Cas looked at me with compassion. “I understand how you feel,” he told me. “Really, I do. I think the reason you took to me like you did is because you and I are very much alike. We’re misfits. Odd ducks. Fish out of water. We never quite feel like we belong anywhere. We’re different from the others. Solitary figures. We talk very little, because we feel too much. Isn’t that right?“
I nodded. Of course. Of course it was right. Losing Cas was going to be like losing a huge part of myself.
“Let’s see: you’ve been in denial, felt angry, tried to bargain with me, and have been feeling depressed,” Cas said, listing the items on his fingers. “All that remains is acceptance.”
“I’m not ready to let go,” I protested, and now, the tears were coming again. “I can’t let you go.”
“I’ve learned a lot of things about free will and choice, over the past decade or so,” Cas said with a thin smile, “and every day, I continue to learn. Love and loss, human emotions…. it’s all very complicated. One day, you will reach acceptance. But no one is saying you have to let go of us. You have to let us go, but you don’t have to let go of us. Does that make sense?”
I was startled. In a strange way, it did. Who knew that Cas was such a philosopher at heart?
“Oh, I don’t know about that, exactly,” he said, as if I’d spoken aloud. “Although, I have known a few, over the years. Plato was nice, but Aristotle was a bit of a know-it-all.”
There it was again: a laugh bubbling up inside, escaping from me. Who would have believed that I would ever be able to laugh at anything again?
Cas handed me some tissues. I looked up at him, surprised once more. But then I noticed that his eyes were red-rimmed, and I understand why he had been standing out here, all alone. Everyone processes grief in their own way, and in their own time.
I wiped the tears from my face. “Is it OK if we just stand here quietly and watch the butterflies, for a while?” I asked Cas, and he smiled. It was good to see him smile. He didn’t do it very often. Maybe he would have more reasons to smile in the future. After all, imagination was a wonderful thing, wasn’t it? Boundless in its scope, and limitless in its possibilities.
I reached out shyly and took Cas’ hand in mine. I’d always wanted to do that. He said nothing, but he gave my hand a gentle squeeze as he held it in his.
We watched the butterflies.
Then, when it was time, Cas and I appeared in the library area of the bunker. I’d never seen it so crowded, not even that time when they’d brought all those people back from the Alternate Universe. Everyone was there: crew members, guest actors, characters who had died on the show or had just simply disappeared from the plot lines, never to be seen or heard from again. They were having drinks and talking in groups, and laughing. There was so much laughter. And a few tears, of course.
But as they all started to fade out of the bunker, one by one, it was the laughter that echoed off the bunker’s walls the loudest after they were gone. It was the laughter and the love they all had for each other as a family that I would remember the most.
Then, there were just the four of us left: Sam, Dean, Cas, and me.
“Are you gonna be all right?” Sam asked me, his brow furrowing with concern.
“No,” I said in a small voice.
“Yes, you are,” he contradicted me. “You’re an honourary Winchester, now. And you know what that means.”
“I have to wear flannel, and drink a lot of beer?” I quipped.
Sam broke into a grin. “See? You just made a joke. That’s more like it! You know what they say: Always Keep Fighting.”
He gave me a hug. “You know we’re really not going anywhere, right? The next time you need us, we’ll be right here,” Sam said to me.
Then I moved over to where Dean was. “I want to say something to you, but I have no idea what it is,” I said to him.
Dean shrugged. “Talking’s overrated,” he said, but his voice was thick and his eyes were red. I hugged him tightly.
Then, there was Cas. I tried another joke: “This is starting to feel like The Wizard of Oz.” And it was true, because it was Cas I would miss, most of all.
“I don’t understand that reference,” Cas said with a straight face. I knew that he did, of course. He’d just wanted to leave me with a smile on my face, by using one of his classic lines from the show. I made a gesture, and Cas understood. He leaned down, and I gave him a soft kiss on the cheek.
“Thank you,” Cas said to me, but I shook my head.
“No, no, I want to thank YOU,” I said. “I want to thank all of you, for fifteen years of laughter, tears, heartbreak, and suspense. I love you.”
“We’re going for a drive,” Dean said, grabbing the keys to the Impala. “We’ll see you around, Gail.”
I’m not ready to let go…. but I will. When the time feels right, I will. But I’ll never let go of any of them, or of any of the many memories I have of the show, or the conventions, or of the friendships I have made. The #SPNFamily. All of the chat groups, the polls, the hashtags. All of the passionate debates about continuity, canon, and plot lines will wane and maybe even disappear altogether once the show itself is gone. But I know that the next time I go to the bunker in my imagination, the guys will be there, waiting to find out what sort of adventures we’re all going to have, in the future.
And when that time comes, I’ll smile. Because when that day comes, I’ll know that I’ve learned how to let go.
How does everyone feel about the show ending, next year? I would love it if you would share, in the comments below.
What, and who, will you miss the most?
Read more of Gail’s Supernatural conversations including holiday dinners, lost scenes and a multi-part summer vacation story! Links on her Writer’s Page!