Last year saw a seemingly high number of notable deaths in the celebrity world…Bowie, Prince, Rick Parfitt, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds are some of the deaths that have shocked and moved us.
Online, we were commenting that 2016 was a terrible year – with all the celebrity deaths and political shocks – 1st January couldn’t come soon enough. But, as we know, death happens daily, it’s not likely to be much different now we’re in 2017. The country seems perpetually in mourning.
Maybe the emotions that celebrity deaths evoke is our way of rehearsing for the real, up-close thing. That, collectively, we are able to express grief without fear or judgement. It’s certainly beneficial to be able to publicly talk about death. I recall Freddy Mercury’s death upsetting me terribly as a teen. I adored his music and cried when I heard he’d passed away. I was shocked by my own reaction to the death of someone I’d never met. It was the first time, I suppose, I tested out my grief emotions.
Money can do a lot for those who are ill – buying expensive treatments and medicines, giving every opportunity to survive for as long as possible. I know from friends’ experiences that private healthcare has picked up life-threatening illnesses that standard NHS screening has missed. Money buys you the chance to be seen quickly and treated promptly.
But money doesn’t buy eternal life. It was when Steve Jobs died in 2011 that I first really appreciated this. He was one of the wealthiest, most intelligent men in the world, yet he couldn’t escape his body becoming ill and dying from that illness. No amount of money would have saved my daughter from her brain haemorrhage either. She died in 2013 and death was something I suddenly knew a lot about. Seeing others mourn celebrities made no sense to me anymore, when our loved ones die every day.
Perhaps we need to recognize more that we aren’t living to escape death, we are ‘surviving’ until we die whether that ‘survival’ is in a shack in a shanty town or a mansion in Beverley Hills. Just because someone has wealth or fame doesn’t mean they end life in a different way to any one else.
What about if we all just lived to 100? How would the world look? It’s quite a good idea, but then again, what impact would mass longevity have on our lives and our planet?
And what about suffering? What if we died in our sleep, without pain, and invasive medical procedures? That is more preferable certainly! Clearly, it’s not something we have control of; if death was that defined, our lives would be too… soulless.
Perhaps we need to be better prepared. Yes, we should try to ‘value every day’ as every other meme on social media tells us, but that’s unrealistic. We can’t skip around singing about the wonders of being alive when there’s bills to pay, children to care for, jobs to do… but perhaps we should value our lives more?
I complain about the trials of life like the next tired mum; I eat too much of the wrong thing, I don’t get enough exercise. But, as I cleared up the Christmas mess, I knew that even with all I’ve lost, I appreciated the life I had. I live in grief and have troubles but I’m not literally fighting for survival. I’m not starving. I’m not witnessing death and destruction all around me. I have the luxury of using my mind for pursuits such as reading, writing and crafts, not for searching for food or hiding from terrorists…
Celebrities will continue to die – maybe even more in 2017 as people we have grown up with on screens age and find their bodies fail. We will continue to mourn them, they are part of our lives and memories, but let’s not write off the entire year when it happens.
A Guest Blog from Kelly Owen
Kelly is Mum to five children and a Gloucestershire resident.
Kelly’s eldest daughter, Abi, died suddenly in 2013 from a brain haemorrhage. She writes about her grief and life after her loss in her blog Chasing Dragonflies. You can also follow her blog on Facebook or Twitter