This has been one gobsmackingly shocking week in terms of celebrity deaths: first Ed McMahon, then Farrah Fawcett, who didn’t even receive a full day’s news cycle for the media to mourn for us when out of nowhere, word arrived on TV that Michael Jackson first had suffered a heart attack, and soon thereafter died. Jackson was younger than me; I’ve had one MI and most definitely do not want another. That this could befall him was more shocking than surprising. After all, you probably weren’t shocked to learn Jackson had a history of hard-drug abuse, to a degree that would make Limbaugh himself (to say nothing of Elvis) blush. Neither was I. Saddened, not shocked.
It seems that quite often the mass public takes the occasions of celebrity deaths as license to grieve in ways some of the same people would not likely mourn the passing of someone close to them, but with whom they have, say, a problematic relationship. In that way, celebrities become surrogates for us, so then we can cry out and howl over our loss. I get that. It’s hard to learn how to grieve so that said grief doesn’t destroy you.
And then the more obvious point: public celebrities become part of our lives, so to know that Michael Jackson will never perform those fifty shows in London (while his career explodes yet again, if posthumously), that Farrah Fawcett won’t be able to really show her audience how funny and knowing she was (I mean, Ryan O’Neal did say that she asked for a pre-nup before their wedding; now, come on, that was funny—and considering her situation it took one brave human being to say that. It’s admirable and a true sign of her personal strength), that Ed McMahon won’t have another chance to resuscitate his career….it’s sad.
But these people shouldn’t matter so much that the lives of those close to us cease to matter. At the end of grief is the moving-on, and so: let’s be sad for all these folks, also their families and fans and supporters. Let’s just not forget each other in the process.