Everyone is talking about the number of celebrities who have died in 2016, with today and tomorrow still left to go. On social media, in papers around the world, we can see people weeping about the passing of their favorite singer, musician, sports figure, actor, news personality, author. It does seem to me that the number of deaths is especially high.
But not necessarily so, according to my not-in-depth Google search. According to snopes.com, in a comparison of several legitimate news organizations and some online sites that I’m not familiar with, the 2016 total to date isn’t that unusual. Caveat – snopes.com is not my go-to site for news.
Why do we feel bombarded with this information? In my parents’ generation, the passing of political figures and a few movie stars were a big deal. They were not subject to an onslaught of the deaths of people whom they would not know. Most people my age or older remember where they were when Kennedy was shot and when Pope John Paul II was shot. But I don’t know where I was when this year’s celebrities’ deaths were reported.
Now people remember where they were on 9/11.
With social media and 24 hour cable news channels, each death, whether of minor stars or major celebrities, gets full coverage. Lives are covered from birth to death. For days.
And, of course, the fact that Debbie Reynolds died the day after her daughter Carrie Fisher, was shocking.
At the risk of sounding very selfish, while the passing of musicians and other famous people saddens me, the deaths that have devastated me the most are the deaths of authors.
I still have barely forgiven Agatha Christie for passing away. And that was in January 1976. Her books have brought me hours and hours of pleasure. I eagerly anticipated her next novel. I believe that Curtain, her last Poirot novel, was published in 1975. And I wanted more. I wish she could have lived and written forever.
Robert B. Parker, who died in 2010, was another prolific writer. I adore his books. I don’t know if he left a bunch of unfinished manuscripts lying around, but he continues to publish books written by other authors, under his name (which I assume means with the blessing of his estate). They are wonderful and very true to his style.
Robert Ludlum, of Bourne fame, died in 2001. I’m a huge fan of the books he wrote before he died. I swear he has published more posthumously than he did before he died. And I have enjoyed zero of those books.
Why do we grieve for these celebrities who have touched our lives without our knowing them personally?
We see sudden death in our face. We see long, painful illness in our face.
We are forced to face our own mortality.