This year, as all too many people have told us, has been brutal. Between divisive politics, tragic events and what seemed a never-ending, stomach-dropping series of celebrity deaths, people were wishing as long ago as early November for this year to end. (OK, that was me.)
In the journalism business, you try to write obituaries of notables ahead of time so you’re not caught flat-footed when someone shuffles off this mortal coil. So, the actuarial tables being what they are, I kept a list of famous people over 70 who might warrant an advance. (There were also a few younger folks known for troubled lives.)
Not to be morbid, but it was a long list.
The thing is, we’re living in a mass-communications age, one in which TV, pop music and now Internet celebrity are more pervasive with each passing year — and we’ve been living in this era for more than two generations. That means it’s an age with lots of famous people. Some of them may not be famous to you or me, but when you have so many channels and so many opportunities for people to stand out — even if just for one defining role — they’re going to get attention.
Moreover, many of these celebrities were part of our childhoods, when our interests were molded, and we’ve followed them throughout our (and their) lives. So losing them is like losing a piece of us. The shock is all the more when they’re relatively young, because it makes us think of our own mortality.
And age and time move in just one direction.
If this makes it seem like I’m trying to diminish the impact of loss, nothing could be further from the truth. We shouldn’t get used to it, we shouldn’t become numb to the shock — but loss is a fact of life. Learn from it. Honor it.
I hope 2017 brings better things: less tragedy, less divisiveness, and certainly fewer notable deaths. I hope all the folks in their 90s ring in their hundredth birthdays and Keith Richards outlives us all.
Most of all, I wish all of you long, healthy, happy lives — no matter where you are on the continuum. I’ll give Frank Sinatra the last word.