By Richard Beck —
When Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett died, many people, myself included, were deeply saddened.
How do we begin to make sense of grieving the deaths of celebrities, many of whom we have never met in our lifetimes in person? There are many layers to the experience of such loss and grieving.
First, in my mind, is that these are people whose lives don’t follow the normal physical of us “mortals.” Then again, they are mortal, perhaps even more vulnerable than folks not in the public eye because of the scrutiny that their lives undergo.
I remember when President Kennedy was assassinated and my father told me that “after Kennedy was killed and the country went on, that the world goes on without anyone.”
We look up to and idealize our celebrities, or perhaps a better word might be heroes, whether they are in the field of music, acting, sports, academia, law, medicine and hold them in extraordinary high esteem.
They embody qualities that we “regular people” aspire to and admire.
When these heroes, these celebrities, die, their death takes a toll on all of us, in that we loss a piece of ourselves that we so admired in the dead hero or celebrity.? We also admire their uniqueness such that one might say, there might never be another ***** (you can fill in the person).
Celebrities and heroes often touch us in ways that we wish we were touched (metaphorically) by our parents. If only we admired our mothers and fathers so intensely, would we have the need to seek out others for whom to give our idealization in return for their skill?
As the poet John Dunne eloquently wrote in one of his poems, ‘Ask not for whom the bell tolls… it tolls for thee’. Not if, but when our celebrities die — Farrah after a prolonged battle with colon cancer, and Michael, suddenly from cardiac arrest — do their deaths not highlight and underscore our own mortality?
Hopefully, we will remember them in our hearts for their careers and that actions that make them so special to us. May Farah and Michael rest in peace. May we all live in and rest in peace as well.