I read on Facebook the other day that if the worst thing that happened to you this year was celebrity deaths and politics, you had a damn good year.
Yeah. Dealing with Dad's precipitous decline the past few months, and my Mom's resulting agony, has been the worst thing that has happened to me since Mike died in 2013. And I have other friends who have suffered deaths of parents and siblings, and horrible disease and other challenges this year. After awhile as widowed people we begin to absorb the fact that we are members of a terrible club, and are not alone in the deep, dark abyss. It's not fun to see other people clawing up the side of that dismal pit beside us, but, well, sometimes it does serve as a reminder that we are all simply participating in the human condition with all the bad along with the good. At least we don't live in Aleppo, I have said often, the past couple months. I do try and be grateful for what I do have, and pray for those in much worse conditions than I.
That said, the celebrity death thing in 2016 has been a little jaw-dropping. This week the death of Carrie Fisher, well known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies among so much else during her career, served as a reminder yet again that mortality awaits us all. Her passing in particular caused a deep stirring in my soul because of how fond Mike was of the Star Wars saga. He collected action figures, had toy light sabers, even a Darth Vadar mask that had a voice modulator to make him sound like the dark warrior. He was always such a little kid about stuff like that. Part of me wondered, with all the talent that has gone to the great beyond this year, about Mike over there on the other side and all the parties and fun - and great music - they were going to be having. I found myself waggling my finger at him when I heard the news about Carrie Fisher, Mike, save some for us, ok? The worst part for me is not having my beloved partner to talk to about all of this.
Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars films, also passed away this past August. But the list of celebrity losses is indeed quite long for 2016. This is only a few.
David Bowie - the first stunning loss of the year that seemed to set the stage for so many to come, particularly in music. Alan Rickman. Glenn Frey. And Abe Vigoda at 94 - the actor Mike and I would always argue about, in jest, that he couldn't possibly still be alive.
Harper Lee. Nancy Reagan. Sir George Martin of Beatles fame. Garry Shandling. Patty Duke. Merle Haggard. Prince. Sigh.
Morley Safer. Muhammad Ali. Elie Wiesel. Gary Marshall. Gene Wilder, who I thought, when I heard of his death, is finally reunited with his bride, Gilda Radner, who was taken from him far too young in 1989.
Arnold Palmer. Shimon Peres. Janet Reno. Leonard Cohen. Robert Vaughn. Gwen Ifill. Florence Henderson. John Glenn. Alan Thicke. Zsa Zsa Gabor. George Michael.
If you believe in any afterlife you kind of have to wonder what big event they have planned up there. But realistically, this is just life. We are all mortal, riding around only temporarily in these unreliable meat puppet suits until they begin to falter and rot. Death happens. And regardless of their celebrity, all these people had families, children, spouses, and friends, for whom the loss is far more catastrophic than it is for us, as fans. I think of that every time. For them, it is personal. As it is for all of us, when we lose someone whose presence in our life left an ugly, gaping hole.
Part of me is holding my breath for a last few shocking losses before the year ends. The other part of me is not, because I have already lost the one single person who has meant the most to me. My beautiful husband. 2017 will mark four years since his passing, something I cannot quite wrap my head around. And 2017 will also mark a time of enormous transition for me personally. Career, home, family...there will be lots of changes coming. So, along with the rest of you, I will be putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, continuing to build upon the ashes and tears.
God speed, everyone.