In the past couple of years, I have mourned the loss of several people who I had never met.
Leonard Nimoy (yes, who was Spock of Star Trek but also had success in movies, television shows, in the recording studio and in the art world) died Feb. 27, 2015.
The mercurial, but nonetheless talented singer/songwriter Scott Weiland died Dec. 3, 2015. And even though his death was predicted and “expected” for years, that didn’t make it any less shocking, any less painful for me when it came. I loved Stone Temple Pilots, and I also loved all of Weiland’s side projects. I met him once and made him laugh, and I will carry that image of him forever – his head thrown back in true laughter at something I did that he called “delightful.”
The great David Bowie passed away Jan. 10. Just four days later, actor Alan Rickman died. Both men had cancer, and both were 69 when they died. In this day and age, that isn’t old. And both were vibrant and still performing amazingly well in their chosen careers.
I still recall like it was yesterday sobbing and dropping to my knees when I learned that John Lennon had been murdered on Dec. 8, 1980. I remember right where I was, who I was with, what I was wearing, how I heard the news. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I loved him and his music so much. My teen brain couldn’t make sense of the fact that he was a peace activist and he was murdered. I still want someone to explain that one to me. And there’s the snuffing out of all of the wonderful music he was making and would have made…
When Johnny Cash died, I felt like I had lost a family member. I wept bitterly the day I found out he was gone. My dad played his records when I was a child, and I followed Cash’s music career as I grew up and moved from place to place. Never saw him in concert, never met him, but I truly loved him. Maybe this won’t make sense to some people, but he was like a father figure to me.
Why do celebrity deaths affect us so much? I think there are many reasons. But, mostly, I think it’s that these people gave us themselves and their time, and therefore we spent time “with” them. I knew everything about Lennon, and as a teenage girl I had spent hours and hours talking with friends about him and listening to his music.
Bowie made me feel like being an outsider, a misfit, wasn’t so bad. It was fine to not be like everyone else. In fact, it was cool to be whoever I was, whoever I wanted to be, and I could change and change again and still be cool. I could just be me. And that was all right.
Cash spoke out for the downtrodden, the broken, the wayward people. I felt his music deeply, and felt like he was talking to me in some of the things he said.
As Spock, Nimoy taught me many lessons when I was a child and as I grew up. I also loved his music. And later his art. He seemed a noble person to me.
Rickman made me laugh, and cry. His quality roles are too numerous to list here, and I may have loved him for the ones that were not as famous as others. I wonder if he would find it funny that the first thing I thought when I learned he was dead, while I hadn’t even wrapped my head around Bowie’s death, was, “By Grabthar’s Hammer…” And then I laughed. I think he might have approved.
The bottom line is this: Let people criticize us “commoners” when we mourn the passings of the famous. Love is love, no matter where it is found. Go ahead and love, and mourn, however deeply you need to.
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