As I look at my calendar – 2017 is quickly approaching – I can’t help but reflect. Social media has been a bit depressing the last few days. It seems the plethora of posts about George Michael has now become about Carrie Fisher. I am a child of the ’80s. And yes, it seems my generation has lost quite a few big names from that era. The entertainment and sports world has also lost quite a few outside of the ’80s generation as well. And though there’s always a brief pause when I read of someone passing away, a short prayer for the repose of their soul, I have never really understood the grief that comes from the public over a celebrity death.
Many people have died in 2016; most of those who have died, even if we only look at those who have died in our own respective countries, states, or even cities, we didn’t know, nor will never know their names. It feels as it a greater proportion of those deaths this year were big names. And maybe they were. But death is not a respecter of age, gender, nor fame. It comes to those when it comes.
I understand that a celebrity death may seem more tragic to people who have never met them. Due to their celebrity status, we feel we did know them. They entered our lives through the big screen, through our television sets, through the radio, and through the earbuds in our ears. Because we caught a glimpse of them – not even necessarily an authentic glimpse of them – we feel we are somehow closer to them than say the man a few blocks over who died that we never met, or the young mom in the next county who lost her battle to cancer that we didn’t know.
But for most of us, we really never knew them. We didn’t break bread with them; we didn’t celebrate seasons with them, pray with them, sit up with them through an illness, discuss the latest book we read, or share a cup of coffee. What we knew of them was mostly what they were willing to share with the world – a character, a script, a song. Yes, they shared their passion with us – but that passion was being someone different than their authentic self. And maybe that’s what made them so good in so many ways – that they could craft a character, perform a show, convey a story so well that we thought it was them, and therefore, we thought we knew them.
Death is tragic. It ends a life here on earth that most people weren’t ready to see go. It alters our future – our collective future. Death takes away the ability to see any other Star Wars movies with Princess Leia in them, the ability to await a new album from George Michael or Prince, the ability to see Craig Sager on the sidelines in his outrageous suits crafting a post-game interview. And when the death is of someone close to us, it turns our world upside down. But at the end of the day, I cannot put much personal stock into the death of a celebrity. It is sad. It’s an end of an era. And yet, my life goes on. Those I know, those I love, are here. This is where my heart is meant to be.