We Hardly Knew Ye - The Death of a Celebrity
The suicide of Robin Williams, hit me pretty hard – Dead Poet’s Society was a landmark film in my life – Seize the Day has been my personal mantra for many many years. That man’s wit and talent and speed and struggles touched me so deeply. I still cannot quite imagine a world without his genius shining in it…..
In this celebrity-driven culture, we often are hit hard by the loss of a beloved actor or musician. Whether they touched our lives with their films, a TV show or a song, these artists leave a deep impact. We feel like we know them, and like they are a certain kind of family member. Their work has spoken to us in very Real Ways.
Now, you may have been told, “it’s just an actor/singer/drummer, why do you care? You didn’t know them!” Well, the relationship between an artist and his/her audience can be very real indeed. Their work reaches us when friends or family cannot, and so can play a very pivotal role, maybe in our very survival. It is a unique kind of human connection.
Maybe a song got you through a breakup or divorce. Maybe watching a favorite film brought meaning when you were lost. Or maybe their personal story inspired you to take action, get clean or keep going, or made you laugh when you were brought low. What a gift they have given you through their talent and art!
When someone dies in their 80s or 90s after a long and illustrious career, we feel the loss of that long relationship over decades. We feel like it is the end of an Era. When a celebrity dies suddenly and tragically, as they often do, due to drugs, alcohol, suicide or an accident, the lack of warning and unfulfilled years ahead feels like we have been robbed – too young, too soon, so much left to create. The tragic comedian (Belushi, Farley, Williams), the lost musician (Hendrix, Morrison, Winehouse), the heartbreaking actor (Hoffman, Ledger, Garland)….the list is long.
There are also performers like Chris Reeves, ill for so long from his accident. How could Superman die??? It seems unthinkable. But Chris was simply a human being.
And their struggles are the same as ours because, at the end of the day, we are all just human. The light of fame illuminated their story, but it is no more or less relatable than our own. We all have challenges, losses and pain – it’s just that theirs have tremendous money, pressure and fame in the mix, and take place beneath a blinding spotlight, all of which can make things infinitely tougher. So we can have compassion when they cannot cope – their suffering, and your sense of loss, cannot be so easily dismissed.
To honor the loss of these artists, we often put on their songs, shows and films, to remember their greatness and how they affected our lives. You can also tell your stories and connect with others – maybe have a Viewing Party. Shared grief is always more bearable.
Other ideas can be to light a candle, say a prayer or send them a good wish on their journey, raise a glass and toast their greatness. Perhaps donate to their favorite charity in their memory. Then decide how you are going to create your own light, as you move forward.
One other thing, particular to celebrity deaths – don’t read the comments…especially when drugs and alcohol, suicide or mental illness is concerned, some folks can say the most hateful things hiding behind their keyboard. Don’t read it, don’t respond, don’t go there. It serves no purpose and will drag you down. Stay in the light – pay fitting tribute – and go forward, in memory of the inspired life just lost. I’m going to continue to Seize the Day…..