When someone significant in my life dies, I like to mention him or her in this blog. They don’t have to be people I actually met, but are usually people who inspired me in one way or another. The late Roger Ebert’s birthday was June 18, and I had a passing recollection of how well he wrote about issues other than movies in the latter stages of his life.
Paul McCartney, who shared a birthday with Ebert – both were born in 1942 – put out an album in 2007 called Memory Almost Full. The penultimate song was The End of the End [LISTEN], which had these lyrics:
“On the day that I die, I’d like jokes to be told And stories of old to be rolled out like carpets That children have played on and laid on While listening to stories of old.” He said on the audio commentary disc to the album that the song was inspired by someone who said, “I wish you a good death.” This initially startled him, but then he started to think of the tradition of the Irish wake, and he gained a greater understanding of the sentiment.
Death is such an uncomfortable subject, even though most of us will experience it eventually. I’ve been to LOTS of funerals in my time, quite a few fellow church members from my last two churches. I’ve come to the conclusion that being there trumps almost anything one can say, because almost anything said can be taken wrong:
“Well, she lived a long life.” True, she was 92, but they wanted her to be there at 93, and 95.
“He’s in heaven now.” Even if all the parties believe this – some don’t – I’ve seen it used as an attempt to shortcut the grieving process, some theological variation of “Get over it.”
“It’s for the best,” usually said of someone who passed after a lengthy and/or painful illness. While this may be true, it’s not for YOU to say. On the other hand, you can say, “If you want to talk…” And let THEM talk.
This article about former BeeGees singer Barry Gibb losing all of his “brothers without being friends with them” is very sad because it is not unusual. Someone dies and issues remain permanently unresolved.
Whereas I enjoyed the story about National Public Radio’s Scott Simon chronicling his mother’s last days on Twitter. I mean, I wouldn’t have done it, but given his mom’s show biz past, it was appropriate for them.
I really liked the poem included in this blog post, which also includes this narrative: “For a time, it feels like the whole world should stop, when a loved one dies. I remember experiencing that feeling so strongly… Perhaps the nicest thing you can do for someone who has lost a part of their world, is let your own world stop, if only for a moment.”
It occurred to me I never gave props to Helen Thomas, pioneering White House correspondent, mostly because I had nothing to add to what others said.
I’ll also mention John Palmer, NBC’s White House correspondent, and later, news reader for the TODAY show, back when it was still doing news.
Michael Ansara, was an actor who “specialized in playing American Indians and aliens”; he was actually born in Syria and was married for a time to Barbara Eden.