As the year comes to a close and I begin to tire of the argument across social media touting 2016 the “worst year ever”, I finally fired up a my word processor to pen a blog post commemorating this year. I’m not sure what it was that triggered the desire to write about something as trivial as the concept that a YEAR can be inherently BAD or have an AGENDA, but I got a little emotional when George Michael croaked.
Why am I cynical about the angry 2016 monster everyone keeps blabbing on about?
First off, it was one of the best years of my life. I’m sure many others had a good year, too. 2016 presented tremendous success and windfalls in my writing career, I got into the best physical shape of my life (then gained 30 lbs with my wife’s last pregnancy), my oldest got accepted to the school that we had hoped for, my middle child finally admitted that I am the funniest daddy in the world, and I got to meet my son. That’s not to say it was a perfect year… I also had an aunt pass away who has had a far deeper impact in my life and the lives of my wife and children than any cultural pop icon could ever hope to achieve. I also lost an uncle who was one of the largest supporters of my writing, but I don’t blame the calendar for their deaths, either.
So why did I finally get worked up?
None of those wonderful things that’ve happened to me change that fact that this year has seen a barrage of celebrity deaths, which amplify our own fears and thoughts of mortality.
Celebrity deaths are just human deaths, really, which happen almost constantly, but the celebrity death seems to have a profound impact on some of us—carrying an emotional cachet that the old man down the block just doesn’t seem to carry.
None of these magnified deaths have seemed to affect me much, until I decided to play a George Michael tribute playlist whilst cleaning the house the day after his passing, and then the cumulative weight of them came down on me while loading the dishes. One of my favorite all time songs, Careless Whisper, which has brought tears to my eye on numerous occasions due to the universal emotions the powerful song evokes, pulled me over the precipice once more.
Not because George Michael had died, that’s tragic in and of itself, especially at his age, but because I now felt that a part of my childhood has died as well.
When we lose an artist, or someone who’s impacted millions the reason it affects people on a personal level isn’t for what that person was to them, but what they represent: something beautiful and powerful in our shared history. Their unique contributions have been magnified and discussed and shared with so many other facets of our mutual existence that they become a part of our culture, or a piece of the backdrop for a time in our lives. Though the music or art, or even film lives on, that piece of time is now marred in some way.
I’ve had this desire to write in my mind since the tears came, but the dishes needed doing, and then the garage had to be cleaned maniacally. Before I could sit down to my rickety old Neo word processor and finally vomit these letters in a somewhat purposeful succession, Carrie Fisher had also passed… a day later she had been joined by her mother, who, in true Star Wars fashion, became the light as well. It is a poetically tragic turn of events, both beautiful and harrowing.
With me being a certifiable Star Wars junkie, this should have been the hardest of all for me to take, and it has certainly left a mark, but still I find myself most caught up my George Michael. Also Prince. Perhaps it’s because while actors are a conduit to display the soul of others, so you see their talent but not necessarily themselves, musicians broadcast their soul, baring it all for the world to judge.
What it is about the loss of someone exceptional that leaves an irreplaceable piece of the universe void?
It’s us. You and me. We make them special in our history and then we have to face our own mortality when they pass. Have to accept the fact that death is imminent and that no level of fame and fortune bears immunity from this haunting notion. If anything, it brings us closer to the fabulously well to do, rather than farther apart.
As we usher in the New Year, I do hope that we don’t lose anymore brilliant souls, but we will… we do every day… most of the time it just doesn’t make the papers.
This is how time, and life works… death and loss must occur in order to pass the torch to the next generation of valuable contributors. As I mentioned, people die every day, and people are born just as often. Each of them has something wonderful to offer this world, even if it never becomes a Grammy winning album, Pulitzer Prize winning novel (fingers crossed), or Oscar nominated movie.
I guess what I am trying to say is: Happy New Year …
… keep in mind that time is a useless construct created by man to give rationality to our limited perception of the dimensions we understand life to be.
M. D. Thalmann