The famous are more than mere human beings. They serve as a "connection" of sorts for millions and millions of other people. A connection to the past. A connection to important milestones. A reminder of all that is possible within each of us. There is something uniquely moving about the outpouring of grief and loss at the death of a famous entertainer. World leaders are mourned almost as if out of obligation (with some exceptions). There is a required solemnity that accompanies the death of a president. Flags are lowered. Ceremonial gestures ensue as a way of thanking this person for their "service to country". True, some presidents have taken on a "celebrity-like" status (Kennedy, Reagan), but most are laid to rest and forever relegated to the historians.
Entertainers, on the other hand, seem to have a completely different mourning playbook. Thousands of fans reach out to one another and share stories of attending concerts, buying records, listening to certain music during the dark and the ecstatic times. There is a need to congregate near monuments (the deceased's home, New York clubs, Hollywood Walk of Fame, hometowns, etc.). Shock and sadness turn to a celebration as classic songs blare from radios and loudspeakers while dancing ensues with sing-a-longs. It is a cathartic and emotionally moving time. Could Prince have imagined this outpouring of love and gratitude at his sudden passing? Could any of the above superstars have truly understood their global impacts and the intimate relationships they were able to create with millions of people they never even met?
Much has been written about the pitfalls of fame and fortune. Nothing is more ironic than the oft-told tales of loneliness that permeate the later years of a star's life even while simultaneously moving tens of thousands of people to tears with a single note or facial gesture, or causing masses of people to rise in unison and dance upon hearing a few familiar bars of a top-ten favorite.
Culture is largely what sets humans apart from all other species. The need to create, to express, to connect through song, dance, art is beautifully embedded in our collective DNA. For some, that DNA is super-magical and the rest of us get to share in that amazing gift from afar. Whether listening to "Over The Rainbow" while dreaming of a better life far, far, away, or jamming out to "Let's Go Crazy" without a care in the world, the artistic among us deserve our most heartfelt gratitude for sharing their gifts, uplifting our lives and expanding this oddly special thing called "humanity". Our grief is real and palpable when we lose someone who has brought so much to our lives. I think this is why we need to grieve, to remember, to rejoice and to reflect when these giants among us pass on. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today 2 get through this thing called life..." Indeed.
Be kind to each other and to yourself.
© Copyright 2016 Douglas Layer, M.A., LPCC