The non-stop news cycle and social media have allowed us to collectively mourn the passing of celebrities in novel fashion. Instantaneously, we can share memes, images, and memories associated with singers, actors, and others who have touched our lives.
Of all celebrities, it’s been my observation that actors and singers are held most dear. I think that is for two reasons.
First, stories touch and change us in ways nonfiction accounts cannot. And while books are loved, they are objects. Actors and actresses then personify for us the stories that fill our imaginations.
Second, music is associated with memory in a unique way, second only, perhaps, to our olfactory sense. In much the same way a scent can transport us to another time and place, so can a familiar melody. In our minds, certain songs are inextricably linked to time and place.
Celebrity deaths, as any deaths, are also stark reminders of our mortality. Songs and scenes immortalized in our individual and collective consciousness are often linked to our youth – ageless in our memory. The unexpected passing of the artist who brought that experience to life, that forever marked a moment or matched a mood, is an unavoidable reminder of the passage of time, our own advancing age, and, ultimately, our own mortality.
No amount of money, beauty, talent, or celebrity status saves us from death, the ultimate equalizer.
One of the joys of heaven I long for most is the communion of saints. Less to my mind actual proclaimed saints, though I’ll be happy to meet some of those, too, but more so the unknown saints. Strangers who offered a prayer for me. Classmates long forgotten. The four grandparents who died decades before I was born, the sister I never met, the loved ones lost, and even those never known to me, who touched my life in some way, whether through their art, their music, their talent, or their stories.
The cemetery of my childhood parish included a small section over a hillside occupied with abandoned graves. Small, hard-to-distinguish headstones were obscured by grasses, weeds, and jagger bushes, as we called them. For some reason, that little patch, which my brother helped to clear when he worked at the cemetery, disturbed and moved me. Something about those buried there, impoverished flu victims, tugged at my heart. My childish tears were genuine sorrow for those seemingly forgotten, whose graves even were lost.
Graves may be lost, headstones abandoned, bodies decayed, memories forgotten. But souls live. Separation may be by six degrees or less on earth, but on the other side of this veil, it will be none.
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