Matthew Perry simply was Chandler from Friends. “I’ve said this for a long time: When I die, I don’t want ‘Friends’ to be the first thing that’s mentioned,” he said. It’s not hard to imagine Chandler making a joke out of that. One can also imagine Perry’s character saying, “I always figured I’d die alone. In a hot tub. Whoa, did I just say that out loud?’ And the audience would laugh because in the Friends-world, those writers have handed Chandler a happy ending: a life with Monica and their children, away from Manhattan, but forever connected to their lifelong friends, Ross, Joey, Phoebe and Rachel.
Life isn’t scripted. At least not by us. Sitcoms resemble real life. But our lives are messier, and more complicated. Our jokes aren’t as funny. And sometimes it’s just tragic. The Chandler Bings don’t get the Monicas and the happily ever afters. Sometimes the Chandler Bings die young and alone. And no-one laughs.
But the real human Perry did what one senses the fictional Chandler Bing would not or could not do: turn to God for help. A year before his death, he wrote in his memoir that at his lowest ebb, he experienced God’s presence and love, saying that “for the first time in my life, I felt OK. I felt safe, taken care of. Decades of struggling with God, and wrestling with life, and sadness, all was being washed away, like a river of pain gone into oblivion.”
Maybe it sounds cliched. But for those of us with a Christian faith, what he experienced is not a surprise but a wonderful reality.