One of my morning rituals is sipping my first cup of tea and reading through my iPad while I am still in bed. I look at Facebook first to check out what’s been going on with people I know and then I also check out the trending topics. It seems that nearly every other day this year some famous person died. It started with David Bowie in early January and this morning I read that Carrie Fisher, the Star Wars actress, has passed on too. It’s late December now and there are still 3 days left for more famous people to succumb.
What’s most peculiar to me is the way many people react to the news of celebrities passing. In many instances it’s always disbelief, followed by anger, then looking for something to blame for their passing. Like the year 2016. I’m noticing a few people are blaming the calendar now and saying that 2016 is cursed. Really?
Well, all I can say about that is that people have been dying since time began. It’s nothing new, nothing weird and certainly nothing to do with the calendar being cursed. Nobody is set aside from death. There’s an old cliché that says only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. It’s the truth. You and I are going to die someday.
It’s probably unhealthy to think about your own mortality too much, but it reminds me of when death first came to my immediate family in 1995 when my Gran Ida passed away. She was 77 and had been unwell for a long time. A few months later her eldest son, my uncle Hugh, also died. Not sure of his exact age, but I think he was in his late 50’s. I remember my Mom saying that her Mom’s passing before Hugh did was God’s grace because she would never have been able to bear up under the pain of outliving any of her children. Five years later my Mom died in her sleep at the age of 52. I won’t lie. Those words of hers about God’s grace had me looking over my shoulder and driving extra carefully from that moment on!
I’ve spent a lot of time since my Mom died trying to make sense of life and consequently drawing myself a mental picture of what death really is. I went through a period where it was literally all I thought of. I had this picture in my mind of my Mom in heaven directing God to do good things for her family. Some weird stuff was happening in my life to back that theory up, for sure (but it’s not true that Mom had anything to do with it).
Death continued carving its way through my life this century. Eight months after my Mom died, my wife lost her Mom too. She was 58. On the very same day my Grandfather died. I think he was 82. We had a period of a few years when times were good, but then they went bad again and in the midst of one of the worst times of my life, my father who was my biggest supporter, died in 2009 aged 63. That one hurt me the hardest. So far. Last December my aunty Patsy died. She was 70.
Do you see a pattern in the deaths that I have mentioned? Does it have something to do with their ages? No. Does it have something to do with their environment? No. Family connections? No. The only similarity they share is the fact that they all lived and they all died and I knew them all. That’s it.
See, amidst all this family death I’ve come to understand that our lives are the most delicate things we possess, but we don’t have them forever. They can be snuffed out instantly, or they can fade out painfully slowly. However it happens there is going to be a day when our earthly existence is no more. We cannot blame anybody for this, especially not the calendar because it doesn’t discriminate. There’s an expiry date on there for us all.