Death. The final finality. Where everyone eventually goes. These are the experiences of life as we know it. To seek out new answers before time runs out. To boldly understand what never has been before!
Death happens every single day around us, whether directly or indirectly. The pain that accompanies the loss of someone close to us is too deep to dwell on and leaves a vacuum that is never filled.
So why is it, then, that when a public figure dies, we mourn and grieve this person we’ve never met (assuming it was a person we admired), share thoughts endlessly with yet more people we don’t know, and do all this almost easier than when it happens to those close to us?
Granted, the death of Great-Aunt Mabel or second-cousin Boomer, while we would be sad, might not leave us incapacitated, not like the death of a parent or sibling for instance. But still, we know Mabel and her terrific pound cake, and while Boomer might have been an idiot, he still brought the beer on game night, so of course he’ll be missed.
But what did Nathalie Cole ever do for us on game night? Did David Bowie ever bring cookies on Christmas Day? Not for us, no.
We the general public have had a fascination and love for so-called celebrities since the concept came into being, and well before that even. These people invade our lives and leave marks, sometimes faint, sometimes indelible. Glen Fry has come along with many of us and we drove our cars, well, everywhere. Great-Aunt Martha decided driving was not for her. Alan Rickman creeped us all out as he reminded us of past high school teachers as he attempted to intimidate Harry Potter. Boomer just creeped us out.
Natalie Cole simply stole our hearts with her voice.
So far 2016 has not been kind to many of those who have endeared themselves to us in one form or another. The man with one brown eye and one green eye left such a permanent mark on music, cinema, words in general… Major Tom will always be David Bowie.
As far as we know, death is the last episode for us all. No remakes or returns. Not as we understand it, at any rate. Reading books and watching TV for as long as I have, the end of a series doesn’t have the same impact it once did, not the same “oh my god the universe is ending!” response and sometimes I wonder if that happens with our own fear of death.
In the end, whether the people who leave us were blood related or not, if we can remember those really good impressions they left with us, those feelings of amazingness and wonder and fear and curiosity… If we remember that, we honor those who have moved along. They are dead but they really do live with us still. Unforgettably. As we come crashing back down to earth.
Live Long and Prosper.