Yesterday, January 10th, 2016, a music legend died. Reading reactions by longtime friends and fans of an artist that I’ve never truly had a passionate feeling for fascinates me. Perhaps it’s morbid of me to do so, but often I’ve found myself lost for hours in beautiful tributes. The tributes to David Bowie have been no exception. His death came as such an immense shock to so many, including myself, that I find the world a little bit smaller, today. We’re a little bit older and a little bit more in tune with one another. So many have expressed their plan to look to the skies and scream that it’s time to start living. That’s the funny thing about another person’s death. It makes you realize the possibilities of your own life.
Now, there are many people who feel they must explain themselves and their reactions to a celebrity’s passing. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t among them. There are those out there who seem to prey on who they might consider to be non-devotees. They tell people they’ve never met, who pour their emotions out, “You can’t feel that way. You don’t know as much as I do. You haven’t been a fan long enough.” Those are the ones that I consider to be the vultures of death. They wish to be the stars of the mourning party, to let no one else near their idol. Then there are the smaller scavengers, the “look at me, I’m so upset that I simply can’t go on another day, please watch me cry unto the Heavens, ‘why, why, why!’ and hang all your own feelings” type of people. They, too, want nothing more, it seems, than to gain their own stardom from the death of another.
But then, I step back and look at myself. I constantly, and with the greatest care, tell those close to me that there are no rules, for mourning. When someone very close to us dies, a hole is left that may, over time, develop a scar, but the reminder is always there. You will have good days. You will have bad days. At times, you will have very bad days. The simple truth, however, is that we are allowed as feeling, emotion driven human beings to honor our dead in any way we see fit. That doesn’t seem to align with my petty judgements of those people I just spoke of, huh? Those people feel the same hollow ache I do, don’t they?
Every Christmas Eve, I remember the phone call to tell me that my beloved Nana had died that afternoon, in 1995. It’s something that I’ll never shake. Over the years, the regrets have become more manageable, but they’re still there. Then, too, on February 17th, I say a prayer and remember Kathryn Grayson who, by the grace of God, let me call her my friend. We weren’t related, and I had only known her for 8 terribly short years, but I’ve always managed to justify doing so, because of that. But, Kayla, what about January 14th? What about August 12th? And therein lies the trouble with the community of mourners for celebrities. We will always justify our own response, but not always will we support the response of another person.
There is one person out there who, should she be reading this, will know that this apology I’m making is for her. I won’t name who, but I do owe her that. There are others who may stumble across this, to whom I also owe an apology, but I must further apologize for not knowing your names.
The apology, itself, is very simple. I am so sorry for being a terrible hypocrite about death. It affects all of us in various ways, and we never know, from the start, where those reactions may take us. Don’t let people like me stop you from feeling. Be true to yourself, true to your character, and show the respect you believe another human life, well lived, deserves. Don’t worry that someone with a longer list of concerts attended or movies seen or books read will judge you. The easiest way to spread the love and inspiration that you feel is by introducing others to it.
Open your heart. Feel. Breathe. Love.
Be that person you always were, with that joy you always had. Speak up.