On a recent episode of Stephen Colbert, Keanu Reeves was asked the million-dollar question: What happens when we die? His answer is poetically profound but to fully grasp the weight of his words, one must know a little about his background.
Keanu Reeves remains one of the most beloved actors of all time. Despite his mega-millions and superstar status, he is incredibly down to earth. One might think he’s had an easy go at life, perhaps that’s why he’s so nice and kind… but think again.
In reality, Keanu has been faced with more tragedy than most. His father left when he was just three years old.
His mother did the best she could as a single parent, but Keanu was raised without a true sense of home – he lived in Australia, Hawaii, New York, and Canada.
He attended four different high schools before dropping out at 17 years of age. His struggle with dyslexia didn’t make things any easier.
Even after hitting stardom, Reeves’ life didn’t get any easier. For starters, he lost his best friend actor River Phoenix in his early twenties.
Phoenix developed a drug addiction that would eventually take his life when he mixed a deadly combination of heroin, cocaine, and valium. He was only 23 years old, the same age as Keanu.
That happened in 1993. By 1998, Keanu met and fell in love with Jennifer Syme. And by 1999, the couple was expecting their first child.
Sadly, on December 24, 1999, while Keanu was filming The Matrix, their daughter Ava Archer Syme-Reeves was stillborn at eight months.
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"In 1998, I met Jennifer Syme. We fell instantly in love and by 1999, Jennifer was pregnant with our daughter. Sadly, after eight months, our child was born stillborn. We were devastated by her death and it eventually ended our relationship. 18 months later, Jennifer died in a car accident. Since then I avoid serious relationships and having kinds." ~Keanu 😭💔 #keanureeves #jennifersyme
The tragedy of this loss caused him and his beloved girlfriend to break up. Shortly thereafter, Syme was killed in a car accident.
Recently, on the Stephen Colbert show, Colbert jokingly asked Keanu: “What happens when we die?” It seems as though the late-night host was trying to be funny since Keanu Reeves is such a thoughtful guy. After all, the two had just been joking about Keanu’s risky action scenes on set.
The crowd laughs in preparation for a comical answer. Instead, Keanu responds with such honesty, his voice laced with emotion, that you can’t help but shed a tear.
After taking a big pause to think about the question, he decides to answer by simply and poetically saying what he knows, not what he ‘believes.’
“I know the ones who love us will miss us,” he says, his voice cracking with sincerity.
The crowd can’t help but let out a big “aww.”
Knowing his past, which is filled with loss, Keanu Reeves’ answer is quite profound. All too often, people grandiosely preach on what they BELIEVE the universe and afterlife is meant to be when asked this same question.
But not Keanu Reeves. He simply states what he KNOWS.
Somehow, through all of the darkness, Keanu has remained a bright light, a source of inspiration for so many. He has turned his pain into compassion.
This is what makes him so inspirational. The fact that he stands in proof that no matter what terrible tragedies befall you, you can remain kind, stoic, and successful.
The talented leading role also credits his losses for making him a better actor. In an interview with The Telegraph, Keanu said that his real-life grief helps him better connect to his characters, such as John Wick.
“For me, it was John’s grief that made it personal,” he said. “It was strong enough to make him want to unearth his past. I thought of it not as revenge but as reclaiming.”
Keanu is known as one of the most charitable actors in Hollywood. He donates the majority of his earnings to good causes and charities, preferring to live a humble life.
To make him even more likable, he doesn’t like to brag about his good deeds.
“I have a private foundation that’s been running for five or six years, and it helps aid a couple of children’s hospitals and cancer research,” he was quoted in a Ladies Home Journal in 2009.
“I don’t like to attach my name to it, I just let the foundation do what it does.”
In addition, he has taken pay cuts so that additional actors can be hired, for instance that’s how Al Pacino ended up in the film The Devil’s Advocate.
He has also donated part of his salary to other people on set, including set builders and special effects teams. On the set of The Matrix, it was reported that he donated over $75 million to people he worked with.
You are an inspiration to us all, Keanu!